Character Interview: OJ Shafer’s Vernell

(Kelly is written by Kelly Blanchard. Vernell is written by OJ Shafer.)

The small log cabin on the lake was quiet. There were no sounds except for the occasional chirp of a bird, and the rustling of small animals as they scurried trough the woods. Vernell Genesee sat on the porch that faced the lake in a rocking chair. She rocked slowly and watched the water. It was still. Taking a deep breath, her nerves began to settle. She was expecting a visitor and she didn’t want to seem too nervous. Vernell told her author that the visitor could come to the cabin on the lake. It was peaceful there, and she would enjoy the company.

Kelly smiled as she walked through nature to the cabin she was directed too. It reminded her of home. In her hand, she carried a plate of chocolate chip cookies as she had promised to bring.

At last, she saw the cabin near the lake, and she drew near and knocked on the front door then waited.

Vernell heard the knock at the front door and smiled. Opening the sliding door that led into the house from the back, she went inside. When she opened the front door, she was happy meet her guest, and was quite pleased to see the plate of chocolate chip cookies in her hand. “You must be Kelly.” Vernell said. She was trying not to stare at the plate. “Thanks so much for agreeing to meet me here at the cabin. Come on through. I’m on the porch in the back. I’ve got an extra rocking chair back there so we can chat. Hope you don’t mind, it’s really old. But it’s sturdy.”

“Sure. It sounds lovely! And here,” Kelly offered her the plate of cookies and smiled. “Freshly made! I thought you might like them.”

Vernell giggled. She absolutely loved chocolate chip cookies. “Thank you. These are my favorite.” She said. “Can I offer you something to drink? Or some cookies?” Vernell took a cookie from the plate as she led Kelly through the small cabin to the back porch.

“I personally think it’s wrong to have cookies without a glass of milk, so I’d love that.” Kelly grinned but then glanced around at the cozy cabin. It felt warm and friendly—which struck Kelly as odd she knew Vernell was the antagonist to this story, so she was quite curious how all this worked together. “This is really a lovely place. Do you live here, or is it a vacation home?” She glanced back at Vernell as she followed her to the porch.

“This is my writing retreat.” Vernell said. “Have a seat. Let me get us some milk.” Vernell went to the small fridge and pulled out a brand new carton of milk that he been purchased for her trip. She reached in her cabinet and took out to tall glasses and poured the milk. “Thanks again for the cookies. They won’t last long. I’ll never be skinny since I love them so much.” Vernell laughed at herself as she handed Kelly the glass.

Kelly laughed at this as she accepted the glass. “Be glad you don’t live with me. I have to make them at least once a week—maybe twice a week because my family demands it. That’s when they’re not wanting me to bake brownies or chocolate cake.” She selected a cookie, broke off a bit of it and dunk it in the milk. “So this is your writing retreat, so that means you’re a writer. I’m one too in my own world, so I can totally relate. What do you write about?” She knew Vernell also had an unusual habit, but she’d get to that soon enough.

“I wish I did live with you.” Vernell laughed. “I’m a horrible baker. I’d love cookies and brownies once a week. Any time you want to send some my way, I’m all for it.” Vernell took a sip from her glass of milk and then selected another cookie. “I write romantic suspense.” She said quite proudly.

Kelly raised a brow but with a smile, “Isn’t most romance suspense anyway? I mean, ‘Does he/she love me? Oh wait, what if they hate me, and I’m completely misunderstanding??'” She chuckled but then shrugged. “That’s what it feels like in real life, at least.” Breaking off another piece of her cookie and dunking it in the milk, Kelly looked across at Vernell. “So, while i’d love to interview you as an author, I understand you have a rather….unorthodox habit….of killing people. Please excuse my directness, but is that true?” She then put the cookie piece into her mouth as she observed Vernell.

“It’s true.” Vernell said after she finished chewing her cookie. “I kill people.” Vernell paused, took another cookie, and then bit it. She was wondering how she would be able to explain why she did what she did to Kelly. And she decided that her best bet would be to be honest. She swallowed, and then said, “Certain people.”

“And what kind of certain people?” Kelly reached for another cookie.

Vernell sat back in her rocking chair and looked at the lake. It was still. “I kill the people who seem to be doing what I’m doing. Getting away with murder. I know that sound weird.”

Kelly tilted her head as she furrowed her brows. “So…” She tried to calculate exactly what Vernell was saying. “How does that work? Do you hunt them down after they’ve killed someone, or do you know they’re going to kill someone but let them do it to see if they get away with it?” But then she added, “Or is there a huge serial killer community?Which would be very interesting in a story actually especially if they’re not your traditional assassins…” Her mind wandered off think of all the possibilities, but then she snapped back at Vernell and gave her an apologetic smile. “Sorry, like I said, I’m a writer too. “

Vernell laughed. “No apologies needed.” Vernell took a deep breath as she thought about her answer. Be honest. She said to herself. “There’s just something weird about the town that I live in.” Vernell said. “It wasn’t always like that. Willingboro, NJ used to be a nice little normal suburban town. Then, it was like the people snapped. A while back, a judge went on a rampage killing the residents that had anything to do with the “corruption” of his daughter. He was beheading people directly involved with his daughter who just happens to be in the porn industry. He almost killed one of the investigators because she figured out he was doing it. Then, there were the three women who had a high school pact to kill any man that they were ever involved with during high school.” Vernell frowned and shook her head. “They killed quite a few men. And from what I hear, they won’t be spending much time in jail. But I need to check my sources.”

Kelly nodded slowly as she took all this in and sat back in her chair. “So, how do you go about this? Is there a list you create of your targets, or how exactly/”

Vernell smiled. “There is a list.” She said. “But I collect my information very carefully. I have a few connections in the Willingboro Police Department, and in the Burlington County Courts. I’m trying to get a little closer to one of the homicide cops too. He was on both cases that I mentioned. His investigator friend is a writer too. She writes crime. I know for a fact that she uses her experiences with them to write her books. I’ve talked to her. I’ve compiled an extensive list of people in my town who have gotten away with murder, and are still walking the streets. I didn’t realize how many there were.” Vernell said. “And all of this information I got while doing some general research for a book I was writing.”

“And what book was that?”

“It was for my first book Mayhem.” Vernell said. “I was just looking for information on crimes that people can easily get away with. It didn’t occur to me to see what was going on in my own neighborhood. But when I did, I was shocked. I called in some favors, and got more information. I started making a list of names to use for the book. As I researched the names, I researched the crimes. I’m still shocked to see what people can get away with on a technicality.”

However, Kelly furrowed her brows as she considered the woman across from her. “But to kill someone…that’s a bit extreme. When did you decide to go that far?”

“There was a husband and wife couple on my list. I was a causal acquaintance with them for a few years.” Vernell said. “They always said things that just made me feel a bit weird when I was around them. Inappropriate things. Somehow I managed to be at a social even with them and they both had a few too many drinks. They mentioned one of their crimes against a teenager, but in a joke. I took it serious and went to a friend about it. The next day I had information about their case, and why they were still on the streets.” Vernell paused for a moment. She took a sip of her milk and then took a breath.  “I was angry for the parents of that teenager. So I just decided that I’d help the system along. I did some research on a few poisons. And during another social even with them, I slipped it to them. She died that night. Autopsy said heart attack. He died two weeks later. Heart attack.”

“And how did that make you feel? When you realized you took not one but two lives?” Kelly tilted her head. She disapproved of Vernell’s methods, but she could understand her reasoning.

Vernell thought for a moment and then looked at Kelly. “If you’re asking me if I like killing I don’t.” Vernell said, “But when the news hit, there was a weight lifted off of my shoulders. I was satisfied that they were gone, and that they wouldn’t hurt another child or teenager ever. Even the parents looked relieved when I saw them.”

“So you were satisfied that you had done a good deed in a very…wrong way, and that convinced you to do it again?” Kelly lifted her brows. “Or how did you come across your next target?”

“My next target was a woman.” Vernell said. “Her sheet read like an James Patterson Alex Cross book series. Honestly I’m surprised she hadn’t been committed. But that was what she wanted people to think. She wanted people to think that she was crazy. She executed other women. Her reasons were because the other women thought they were better than she was. So she drugged them, tied them up, and shot them in the back of the head. She was walking the streets because of a technicality in courts. She knew people in high places. I got a hold of a recording. She didn’t know that she was being recorded. She admitted that there was nothing wrong with her. She admitted that she wasn’t crazy. She admitted to knowing right from wrong, and she knew that killing the women was wrong. In her words she said, ‘I knew exactly what I was doing.’ I sent her a bottle of wine laced with some special stuff. And the outside had a little something on it too. So it was absorbed into her skin and she ingested it. Autopsy said alcohol poisoning. I was happy to see her go. I knew three of the six women she killed.”

“I live in a freakin’ community of serial killers and I’m one of them.” Vernell said running her hand over her face.

“The City of Serial Killers—where everyone gets away with murder. Sounds like a story.” Kelly mused but then leaned forward, setting her elbows on her knees as she clasped her hands together and regarded Vernell. “And do you like being a part of that community? Or do you think you could bring people to justice in a more upright and moral manner?”

“Sounds like a good story.” Vernell said. Then she thought about Kelly’s question. “I don’t know Kelly.” She finally said. “What’s so moral and upright about these people who don’t pay for their crimes? If they had gone to jail, and were paying for what they did, they’d be alive right now. I guess the same will be said of me if I get caught. But right now, they are looking for a man. And they aren’t looking hard enough.”

Kelly paused. She had several ways she could take this conversation, but she sensed her time here was already up. She needed to bring this to a close sooner than later because she had another interview to do elsewhere. However, she allowed herself a few more questions, “And you’re disappointed in them? That they don’t suspect you? That maybe they’re failing in their duties because they can’t catch you?” She raised her brows.

“No. I’m not disappointed.” Vernell said. ” Cause I’d like to date that detective for a bit before I get caught. But I think they aren’t looking that hard because the people that are dying, are…” Vernell paused. “bad people.”

“So you’re basically a vigilante, but you go so far as to take the law into your own hands?”

“I hate that word.” Vernell said. “I’ll just say that I like to help the justice system in extreme cases. It’s just too bad the extreme cases always land in my neighborhood.”

Kelly nodded. “I can see your point. I don’t agree with it though, but I can see it. I have many more questions I wish to ask you, but unfortunately I am out of time.” She rose to her feet. “Thank you for agreeing to this chat. I learned quite a bit, and it was nice talking with you.” She then paused to consider Vernell before finally speaking what was on her mind. “And if your home town is so bad that it’s making you kill, you might consider moving.” She shrugged. “Just an idea. Those bad people will answer for their crimes, but doing what you’re doing…” she shook her head. “You’re becoming no better than them.”

Vernell rose. “You’re right.” she said. “Maybe when I’m done, I’ll move. If I ever get done.”

“And by that time, what will be left of you as a person?” Kelly locked eyes with Vernell, but she wasn’t expecting an answer. “I’ll show myself out. I think you have some things to think about. Thanks again. it was nice meeting you.” With that, she nodded to Vernell once and then left.


Note: Orlandrea’s book is titled ‘Good Night Garfield’ and is due to be released before the end of the year. For more information follow her on social media:





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