by Harold Hoss
1 day, 3 hours, and 7 minutes
Cassie wanted to cancel her zoom date fifteen minutes before it started, but she couldn’t think of an excuse. Excuses were another thing Covid had taken from everyone without warning last year. Now all she could do was text him and ask if they were still on for tonight. A Hail Mary text that, after a few seconds of bubbles where Cassie dared to dream, her date answered in the affirmative.
Cassie sighed, got up off her couch and walked back to check her reflection in the mirror. This was a zoom call, so she hadn’t bothered to put on anything nicer than jeans and sandals, but she did look good from the waist up. She wore her favorite set of dangling chandelier earrings, silver butterflies with black diamond fringe hanging from the wings, and a blue and white striped shirt cut low enough to accentuate her neck and collarbone. One zoom date had described her as an ‘exotic Edie Sedgwick’ and, standing in front of the mirror, she had to agree with him. She looked like a girl who rubbed elbows with artists, inspiring them to create their masterpieces. Wasn’t that why she had moved to Los Angeles? To Hollywood? To be a part of that scene?
Cassie checked her cell phone: five minutes. Had she really been standing in front of the mirror for ten minutes? Jesus.
She shook her head, poured herself a glass of wine, and opened up the zoom window. She had positioned herself so that her bookshelf and banjo, both hobbies she mentioned in her dating profile, were visible in the background without being obtrusive.
Then she took a sip of wine and waited.
She had no real reason to want to cancel this date. The guy had done nothing wrong. It was her fault, really. Last weekend she had taken an edible and polished off the last of her wine while watching a Netflix movie. The movie was about two best friends who go into the witness protection program with new identities and end up in an apartment next door to their high school heart throbs—or something. About halfway through the movie, Cassie realized she was two years older than the lead characters and, fearing she would die alone if she didn’t act immediately, she had downloaded the dating apps again.
Hinge. Bumble. Even Tinder. All of them.
Cassie looked down at the clock. She was three minutes late, which was perfect. She started up the zoom call and smiled at the face that greeted her.
“Cassie! You’re alive. I was worried you had been murdered.”
Cassie smiled. It was an awkward opening line, but – Cassie hovered the mouse over the other window to double check and confirm his name—Adam was going to be awkward. She remembered him saying he was an attorney who drafted wills. Good business, Adam had explained, because everyone dies someday.
“Somebody has been watching too many crime docs on Netflix,” Cassie said. “Or listening to podcasts.”
“Guilty. Of listening and watching. Not murder,” Adam said. “I’m obsessed with this Blonde Dahlia case. I mean, it’s happening right here. In Los Angeles. Have you been following it?”
Cassie squinted at Adam. Someone needed to invent an app that filtered men’s dating profile pictures after you matched, adding five pounds and thinning the hair on top. Meeting face to face after getting to know someone through their best four to five photos was always inherently disappointing in online dating.
Cassie realized Adam was waiting for her to respond. “You mean the girl murdered with the cuts?” Cassie pointed to the sides of her face, then she shook her head. “Not really.”
She had heard about the body found behind Dodger Stadium. She couldn’t have not heard about it because it was all over social media. A pretty blonde with a smile carved in her face was something out of a movie, and this was a city that was obsessed with movies.
“You don’t read the news?”
Cassie blinked. “Like, a newspaper?”
“No, I meant, like online.” Adam laughed, then a sly smile crept across his face. “I guess someone in your line of work probably doesn’t need to read the news, do you?”
Cassie frowned, confused, then she sighed. She knew exactly what Adam was talking about.
“What? I think it’s cool! Way better than being an aspiring actress,” Adam said.
“Yeah, well, I’m an aspiring actress too.” Cassie took another sip of wine, finished it, and considered hanging up. Instead, she reached for the bottle. She wasn’t going to do this sober.
“So are you, like, really a psychic?” Adam said. “I mean, can you read minds? Or the future? Or what?”
Well, I knew I shouldn’t go on this date, Cassie thought about saying. Instead, she held up her hand, clenching and unclenching her fist, showing off her freshly painted nails. Nails she painted for this date.
“I read palms,” Cassie said. She could have stopped there, but she doubled down. “And tarot cards. I read those too.”
Cassie guessed Adam found her through a reverse image search. Her picture came up as Cassandra Troy, one of five women working at the PsychicCollective on La Brea. This had happened before and was becoming more common.
“So how did you know you were psychic?”
Cassie shrugged. She could have told Adam that she had worked for years as a server and she always knew the best dish to recommend to guests, or when they wanted a refill, or when they just wanted the check. Or she could also have told Adam that psychics, unlike servers, were an essential business—and she needed to pay rent.
“I just knew,” Cassie said instead, taking another sip of wine. She was drinking her wine too fast. Her second glass was almost empty.
“Well, I wish you could tell the future,” Adam said. “Then I’d take you to Vegas and we could make some real money.”
Cassie smiled. She should just slam her computer shut and go lie down. But a part of her wanted to win Adam over. Needed to win him over. “Well, you can still take me to Vegas.”
“Yeah?” Adam said.
“I can’t read the future, but if you take me to Vegas?” Cassie shrugged. “You might get lucky.”
Cassie reached for the bottle and poured herself another glass of wine.
9 hours and 4 minutes
The movie billboard hung over the vintage clothing stores on Melrose like a dark cloud, a relic from a past where movie theaters were still open. The billboard was mostly black, except for an actress screaming in front of a masked killer wielding a giant pair of scissors above a title and a release date. The release date, picked when Corona was still just a Mexican beer, had long since come and gone, but the billboard lingered. Recently someone had carved a smile into the actress’s face and painted “BLONDE DAHLIA #2” over the title in all caps.
Looking up at the billboard, Cassie wondered again what that girl had that she lacked. What separated the girls who made it from the ones who didn’t in Hollywood?
Cassie let her head drop back down. After a year in lockdown, she had forgotten how much she hated crowds. She hated how easy it was to get lost in a crowd, to become just another faceless nobody, when she knew she was somebody. Not just somebody, but somebody important.
The sound of laughter caught Cassie’s ear, and she looked away from the stream of pedestrians on Melrose, and over at a crowd of girls and obsequious boys gathered around a pair of angel wings painted on a wall. The girls were taking turns posing in front of the angel’s wings, trying on smiles and pouts and various looks, while their boyfriends obediently snapped pictures.
Something twisted in Cassie’s stomach. Not quite anger and not quite jealousy. Something inside her hated these girls for being so fake. So basic. For being the walking, talking cliches that were easy fodder for comedians. Another part of her wished she, Cassie, really was the pretty actress on the billboard above them. That one girl would look over and say: that’s her! That’s her! And it would force Cassie to turn away. To run. To hide. Because Cassie wasn’t about all of that. She wasn’t in it for the fame. She was in it for the art.
Cassie turned away, but instead of running away from adoring fans or losing herself in the crowd, she wandered into the new pop-up shop across from Wasteland. A clothing store called Dig It that swooped in on another business that lacked the means to survive during the lock down.
Dig It was really just a sliver of real estate on the corner, but the owner had made the most of the limited space. The front of the store was tastefully minimalist, with two models holding shovels in a window to the left, and a mural of Lichtenstein comic girls on the wall to the right with one saying, “Can you dig?” as the other answered “I dig it.” Further back the store became more densely packed with clothes, some stacked and folded while others hung like heavy curtains on the walls. A small black desk with a cash register sat nestled in the back, where a manager berated her younger employee.
No texting, no personal calls, and no playing on your phone,” the manager said. “This is a customer facing business. Do you understand?”
Cassie saw the girl’s fingers twitch as she fought the urge to reach for her phone. Instead, the girl smiled.
“I dig it,” the girl said.
The manager’s eyes narrowed and, for a half second, Cassie thought the manager might slap her smart mouthed employee. Instead, she turned on her heel and marched out. The employee watched the manager round the corner outside and then reached for her phone.
Cassie smiled and checked her reflection in one of the store mirrors, making sure her sunglasses and mask hid her face, then she walked over to the rack and began grabbing the most expensive clothes she could find, anything over a hundred dollars. When she had a handful, she walked over to the desk and laid them out.
“Was that your manager?” Cassie said. “She looks like a real bitch.”
The girl nodded, reaching for the clothes. “And she’s my cousin. My mom made her hire me. So she’s trying to get me to quit. Like I want to be here.”
The charges on all the clothes came up to almost a thousand dollars. Despite the girl’s attitude, she folded the clothes quickly and efficiently, and Cassie wondered if she had misread the girl.
“I love this. It’s so my style,” Cassie said, picking up one of the charm bracelets sitting on the desk.
“Yeah, each one is like, unique. No two pieces are the same,” the girl said, “You want me to add it?”
Cassie nodded, slipping the bracelet over her wrist. Then she opened her purse, pulled out a wallet and handed the girl a silver credit card. “You get a commission on this, right?”
“I wish. We’re hourly.” The girl’s eyebrows bunched together. She ran the card again, then looked at it.
“Do you have another card? This one is expired.”
“What? Oh, let me see.” Cassie looked appropriately embarrassed, and she began digging through her purse. “How do they expect you to be motivated to work if they don’t pay you a commission?”
“Tell me about it,” the girl said, unsure if she should watch Cassie dig through her purse or look somewhere else.
Cassie gave the purse one more pass, then came up empty. “I must have left the new card at home. Damn. I’m always doing that.” She drew out a clean, crisp hundred-dollar bill. “All I have is this. My boyfriend makes me carry it for emergencies.”
Now the girl looked embarrassed. There was nothing in the bag that Cassie could buy for less than a hundred and fifty. “You could still buy the bracelet?” The girl said.
Cassie pretended to pout as she handed over the hundred-dollar bill for the four-dollar charge. Then she watched as the girl began counting out the bills: four twenties, a ten, then eight ones, wait, one five, and a single one-dollar bill.
“Is there any way you can set these aside for me? So I can come back and get them this afternoon?” Cassie looked down in her purse and feigned a shocked yelp. “I found a five. I’m so sorry. And did you give me back that credit card? My boyfriend will want to cut it up. He’s real anal about that stuff.”
Cassie had the girl spinning three directions at once, handing her back her crisp hundred-dollar bill, putting the bag away, looking for the credit card, and then beaming with pride when her manager stomped back in expecting to catch her employee on her phone. Nobody noticed when Cassie slipped the change off the desk and into her purse.
“Thanks so much for your help,” Cassie said, smiling at the manager. “You’re lucky. It’s so hard to find good help these days.”
Then with a friendly wave, Cassie, masked and anonymous behind her sunglasses and face mask, turned and walked out of the store ninety-one dollars richer with a new charm bracelet.
3 hours and 4 minutes
The Psychic Collective where Cassie worked was in a tiny strip mall on La Brea above a store called Chiro Plus that was never open and next door to a dispensary called The High Life. Dispensaries, like psychics, were essential and both shops shared customers. Cassie had found that once people visited a dispensary they became more open to other kinds of spiritual experiences, and she had taken in several curious walk-ins during the pandemic.
Of course, these were also unprecedented times, Cassie thought. Solutions that used to seem crazy didn’t seem that crazy anymore.
Tonight, however, Cassie was just seeing regulars. The type of clients who came to see her once every two weeks. While there was a stereotype that only women, usually older white rich housewives with too much money and time on their hands, came to see psychics, Cassie had found this wasn’t true. She had all kinds of clients: men and women, divorced and married, gay and straight, rich and poor. The only thru line was that they all had questions, and most had tried therapy without success.
While she waited for her next regular client, Cassie took out her phone and decided to delete the dating apps. She found hinge and held down her thumb on it for a few seconds and suddenly all the apps on her screen came alive, shaking and squirming with nervous anticipation as they waited to see which would be deleted and which would be spared.
Cassie had just finished deleting the last app when a knock at the door drew her attention, and she looked up to see Lady Vy standing at the door. Lady was good with charts and especially adept at reading auras.
“Did your date last night go well because your aura, wow. The energy coming off you? It’s big, girl.” Lady’s eyes twinkled. She held in one hand a coffee cup that, at one time, held iced coffee but now was just ice. She took a sip on it, sucking up what little moisture she could.
“No, no. I mean, it was fine. He was fine,” Cassie said. She smiled back at Lady, thinking about the ninety-one dollars in her purse. “But you’re right. I had a good day.” But even if she hadn’t been almost a hundred dollars richer, talking to Lady always made Cassie feel good.
“I can tell,” Lady said. “Millie out front? She wanted me to come tell you. Your eight o’clock canceled. You can go home if you want.”
“Canceled?” Cassie said.
“Yeah, lot of people canceling tonight,” Lady said. She dropped her voice. “They found another body. That’s why I’m heading out. I didn’t survive a pandemic to get killed by some maniac.”
Cassie nodded but didn’t get up. Normally a night off was cause to celebrate, but now it made her depressed. What were her options? She could go back to her apartment. Grab another bottle of wine. Fall asleep halfway through some movie. Do the same thing she had done every night for the last year.
“Wait, hold on,” Lady said. She stepped away from Cassie’s door and shouted something down the hallway. A moment later, she leaned back into Cassie’s office. “Millie says there’s a walk-in out front if you want to take him. You’re the only one here.”
“Sure,” Cassie shrugged. “Send him in.”
She could use the money, Cassie thought. She could always use the money.
Cassie put away her personal things and adjusted her deck of Rider tarot cards. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and let Cassie slip away. Cassie knew her faults. She could be easily distracted, prone to jealousy, and quick to judge. Cassandra Troy had none of these faults. Cassandra Troy was more in touch with her abilities. She had the confidence to read a palm and knew how to summon the right intentions when shuffling her deck of tarot cards. When she heard his boot steps coming down the hall, she opened her eyes.
The first thing she noticed about the walk-in was his smell, like a leather jacket dipped in cigarette smoke, with the faintest whiff of sulfur somewhere underneath. He wore black from head to toe, starting with black ostrich skin boots, black jeans, and a black leather jacket he kept zipped up to the throat. Despite being inside, he still wore his wide aviator sunglasses, the stems of which were tucked away in a thick, greasy mane of black hair. His most striking feature was his face mask, a row of crisp white, needle thin piranha teeth stretched from ear to ear with the barest curve of a smile.
He stood in the doorway for a moment, head cocked to one side like a hawk, then he stepped inside.
“You want me to close this?” He asked, pointing at the door.
Cassie almost said no, the word bursting out of her mouth spontaneously, but she caught herself. Instead, she smiled. “If you like.”
The man’s cheeks twitched as he closed the door, and she thought he might be smiling.
“Do you want me to wear a mask?” she said. While the Psychic Collective had a strict rule about wearing masks in the hallway, patrons could take off their masks once they got to their psychic’s office. Cassie didn’t understand the logic of this rule, but very little about Covid regulations had been logical.
“You got a pretty face, Cassandra Troy. Don’t cover it up,” he said. The man had a raspy, smoker’s voice, like a harsh whisper. “Let your light shine, shine, shine.”
Cassie pressed her lips into a line, then decided to put on her mask anyway. “It’s safer if I wear a mask.”
“You really think a piece of cloth is going to protect you?” The man grunted.
Cassie had seen anti-maskers online. Her hometown was full of them. But this was the first one she had met in person. They were rare in Los Angeles.
“So as you know, I’m Cassandra Troy. And you are?”
The man hesitated, as if he wanted her to guess. Some patrons wanted her to guess, like this might prove she was a fraud.
“Walker,” he said. “Walker the Walk-in.” Then he laughed, a few quick grunts that he cut off with a jerk of his head to one side. “You read palms or you read the future?”
“I read palms and tarot cards, but sometimes we can predict the future. Or at least plan for it.”
“I guess telling the future didn’t work out for the last Cassandra, did it?” Walker grunted. “You know the story of Cassandra’s curse?”
Cassie leaned back. She had lived in Los Angeles long enough to spot a creep, and this guy was a creep. She knew Millie would have already charged him, everyone got charged ahead of time for their first reading, but it annoyed her Millie even let this guy in. Part of Millie’s job was to screen guys like this.
Despite these thoughts racing through her brain, Cassie’s eyes showed no emotion. She looked calmer than she felt, and she was thankful for the face mask and all those rejection filled auditions that toughened her up. Cassie shook her head no. She got paid by the hour. If he wanted to spend that hour telling her about ancient myths, that was his choice. She didn’t want him to be a repeat customer.
“Cassandra was real pretty. Just like you. The most beautiful princess of Troy, and she had a special gift. She could see the future,” Walker said. “But there was a catch. Because no matter what she saw, or what she said, nobody believed her.”
Walker had leaned forward while he spoke, and now he leaned back. He kept fidgeting, as if he couldn’t sit still for too long, like a student trapped in a classroom on a sunny day. As he talked, the glass lenses of his sunglasses changed, going from opaque to transparent, leaving the barest tint. The eyes that looked back at her were green and moist, never blinking.
“But you’re no Cassandra of Troy,” Walker said, laughing again. “Cassandra was the real deal. You’re a Cassie. Just another Cassie Chadwick. You know who she was?”
Cassie shook her head.
“Well, look it up.” Something in Walker’s mood shifted. The monogrammed smile of teeth on his mask didn’t change, but Cassie thought he was frowning, or maybe snarling, at her. He held out his hands. “I’m not paying to give you a history lesson. When I pay money, I want something in return. The girl out front said you read palms, right? Read them.”
Cassie smiled, staying polite. It relieved her to see her hands were steady when she held her own palms up and out for him to see.
“Each palm is different. Two palms. Two different readings.”
“I’m not paying you twice,” Walker said.
Cassie’s smile widened, “that’s not what I meant. I meant that each palm is unique. Like different books by the same author. Your left is what the gods give you.” Cassie turned her left palm in the air, “and the right is what you do with it.”
“There’s only one God,” Walker said, and he pulled up his sleeve to reveal a bible verse branded in the flesh around his wrist: James 4:14. He tapped the verse. “Just one eternal God. While the rest of us are just like mist that appears for a little while, then vanishes.”
Cassie wasn’t here to argue religion. She fought the urge to look at the door and instead she pointed at his palms. “May I?”
Walker nodded, hunching forward again.
“I’ll start with the left,” Cassie said.
Cassie reached out and took his left palm, her fingers brushing against the thick coils of hair on his fingers and on the backside of his hand. She noticed the hair on his fingers was reddish blonde, and she shot a glance up at the black hair on his head. She had thought the hair was greasy and unwashed, but now she wondered if there was something off about that hair. Something unnatural in the way it sat on Walker’s head and the way he never touched it. A morbid thought crossed her mind, that he was wearing someone’s scalp over the top of his own.
“A wavy fate line,” Cassie said, pushing the image from her mind. “You’ve suffered lots of hardship. A rough childhood.”
She didn’t say it, but she saw signs of violence and abuse in his past.
“Pain,” Walker agreed. “That’s what my childhood was. Pain and more pain.”
Walker held out his right hand. Now that she had seen the pain the gods gave him, he was eager to show her what he did with that pain. A part of Cassie’s brain said she didn’t want to see, but she reached for his palm. The second their palms touched, Cassie felt a jolt, like the static shock of grabbing a doorknob after walking across a carpet, but tenfold.
She saw hands wrapped around a girl’s throat. Taking their time as they squeezed, until the girl’s eyes bulged with pain, then released, letting the girl catch her breath before they squeezed again. She saw the long curve of the knife, already stained with the first girl’s blood, tapping lightly on either side of the girl’s cheek. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe... the raspy voice of a smoker, tapping back and forth, back and forth until he landed on the right cheek.
Cassie snapped back to her office. She practically threw his hand down and staggered to her feet. She had broken out in a cold sweat and she took a shuddering breath.
Walker cocked his head at her, again reminding her of a bird. He leaned back, staring at her. “What did you see, Cassandra?” His voice was soft.
“I saw,” she said. “I saw you.”
“Saw me what?”
Cassie’s heart raced. Already the image was beginning to fade. What had she seen exactly?
“Why don’t you sit down?” Walker said. “Read my tarot cards.”
Cassie shook her head. “No. No, we’re done. Get out.” She took a breath. She almost said she was calling the police, but there was plenty of time to do that after he left. After he wasn’t sitting right in front of her.
Walker shook his head. She heard a clicking sound from beneath his mask.
“You’re good,” Walker said at last, clapping twice. “I take it back. You’re no Cassie Chadwick.” He stood slowly to his feet. “You really are a Cassandra. Go ahead. Call the police.” He walked to the door and stopped, hand hovering over the doorknob. “You remember what I told you about Cassandra’s curse, right? They didn’t believe her, and they won’t believe you.”
Cassie asked Millie at the front desk if she wanted a drink before heading home. She was feeling on edge, she explained, about the pandemic and the serial killer. Millie hadn’t needed an excuse, and one drink turned into two or three, and then both girls were rushing next door to The High Life dispensary moments before it closed. All this meant that Cassie was a few steps past tipsy when she climbed into her Uber, promising to check in with Millie when she got home.
“Wilton and Taft?” the driver asked.
“Yeah, just go down Hollywood like you’re going to take the 101 north? But go one block past that.” Cassie had given these instructions to so many Uber drivers they were practically automatic.
She suppressed a hiccup and pulled out her phone. The only recent break in the case was a police sketch of a man in sunglasses and a face mask which the late-night hosts had been quick to point out could be anyone in the city. A tweet trending across every app read: ‘At least we know the killer has a nose. Note to self: avoid men with noses.’
“You just getting off work?” Her driver asked.
“Yeah,” Cassie said, not looking up from her phone as she looked up Cassie Chadwick. She tried to click the link, but it took her out of safari and into another app that needed wi-fi. She went back to safari and looked at the preview which informed her that: ‘Cassie Chadwick was a well-known con-artist in the early 1900s…’
“That’s cool. I actually run my own business,” the driver said. “Driving for Uber is just part time.”
Cassie only had the energy to smile back at him. She dropped her cell phone into the seat beside her and began looking for her headphones. Headphones were the universally accepted, polite way of ending all conversations. Meanwhile, the driver kept talking.
“Yeah, it’s not easy running a business. But it’s my passion, you know? And I really enjoy being my own boss. Making my own hours.” The driver continued. “That’s what I like about Uber, you know? They’re pretty hands off. I drive when I want to drive and that’s it.”
Cassie couldn’t find her headphones, but she would be home soon. They were already passing Amoeba Music on the left. The neon lights that once read CDs, LPs, DVDs, Video, like a shrine to outdated technology, were dim, covered by a banner that read ‘WE ARE MOVING’ in black and yellow.
“Can’t believe Amoeba is moving. I mean, that place was iconic,” her driver said. “I mean, if it can happen to Amoeba, it can happen to anyone.”
Cassie wasn’t surprised. She couldn’t remember the last time she bought a CD or a DVD, and although she liked the idea of owning LPs, she hadn’t bought many of them either.
“Just left up here,” Cassie said, as they crossed over the 101.
She couldn’t wait to be home. She needed to be home. To be sitting alone, surrounded by her things. She barely waited for the Uber to roll to a stop before she climbed out of the car and waved him off. Without waiting to watch him drive around the corner, she turned and faced her apartment.
The street Cassie lived on had no permits or parking rules, save a street sweeping every Tuesday, and was always packed with cars of every make and model. To her left, a brand-new BMW sat inches from an old, beaten down station wagon with plastic bags for back windows. The south side of the street was a row of houses behind chain link fences, while the north side was apartment buildings, all separated from the street by wrought-iron gates.
Cassie walked to her gate but broke into a jog when she reached the sidewalk. She punched in the code on the keypad when she saw the gate hanging open.
This wasn’t the first time Cassie had come home to an open gate. The lock had a tendency to catch if people weren’t paying attention. But Cassie wished it hadn’t happened tonight, after the day she had.
She pulled open the gate and looked around. Her apartment building was tall and thin, accessed by stairs on the outside that paused at every level. The manager was too cheap to fix the elevator and too cheap to pay for well lit stairs. Instead of putting lights on every level, he had put a row of lights in the middle of the stairs, so that each landing was dark while the stairs were well lit.
Looking up, Cassie had never realized how dark the landings could get. She took a breath. She didn’t have a flashlight, but she had a phone, and she reached a hand into her pocket.
A tremor of panic shook her body when she realized her pocket was empty.
“Shit,” Cassie said. “Shit. Shit. Shit.” She started digging through her purse, but she already knew where her phone was. She could see it clearly sitting on the seat beside her in the Uber. Still, Cassie kept digging until something else caught her eye. A small mound of cigarette butts piled near the foot of the stairs.
Cassie swallowed, willing her eyes to adjust to the darkness, to see inside the shadows. She looked back at the gate, then back up at her apartment.
It’s only four levels, Cassie thought, visualizing her apartment door. She strained her ears and scanned the shadows one more time, but she heard nothing. Saw nothing.
Cassie took another breath and started up the stairs.
(Bio: Harold Hoss took a break from fiction writing to attend USC law school and work on the business side of entertainment for five years. When the pandemic hit and film production halted, he decided to return to his roots of fiction writing. He enjoys reading, writing, running, and coffee – he loves coffee. )