Test Your Gut Instinct

The time will come when men will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men._ ~ Leonardo Di Vinc (1)I was cursed/blessed with the ability to see the good in everyone, and I mean everyone. This has gotten me into sticky situations in the past and if I’m not careful, could destroy my future.

In our fiction we allow our characters to trust their gut instincts. But in the real world, do we always listen to our gut? Or do we make excuses? Thus, making it easy for psychopaths to lure us into their deadly web.

Imagine, if you will, that you find yourself single after ten years of marriage. You’ve got a good job, are self-assured, and your peers consider you to be of above-average intelligence. You’re not really into the bar scene, but your girlfriends convince you that it’ll be good for you.

Reluctantly, you agree.

The night air is gorgeous tonight, around sixty degrees, low humidity, a full moon spreading its glow over the main entrance to Peter’s Bar and Grill. Seems like a decent place with upstanding citizens.

You enter.

Halfway into the night, a man approaches your table. Clean cut, short hair, none of those bad boy tattoos your mother warned you about. He offers to buy you a drink. At first, you hesitate. Do you want to accept a drink from a stranger?

The man extends his hand. “I’m Greg. It’s lovely to meet you.”

Aww, he seems sweet.

He drags over a chair. Now you’re obligated to chit-chat because he bought the drink that you’re enjoying. Without warning, your friends storm the dance floor to give you two space to get to know each other. Your gut is warning you, “This isn’t right. You should leave.” But he’s so charming. It seems everything out of this man’s mouth is exactly what you’d longed to hear in your dead-end marriage.

He buys you another drink, and then another, and then another. Each cocktail goes down smoother than last. You’re giggling like a schoolgirl at her first co-ed dance. From your peripheral vision, you catch a glimpse of your friends at a table by the door. For a moment, a tiny voice inside you says, “You should join them.” But Greg is so attentive and complimentary. You give him your full attention.

You laugh at all his jokes, flirt a bit. The way he makes you feel…his laugh sends flutters to your belly, his smile warms your heart. After all you’ve been through, you deserve to be happy.

The bartender announces, “Last call.”

Is it really that late? Geesh, you haven’t been out this late in years. The notion tickles you. Being naughty is fun.

With his seductive eyes and thick lashes, Greg convinces you to have one more round. What the hell? You only live once.

The house lights brighten the bar. Everyone’s skin looks shockingly-white, their pupils dilated from the fluorescents.

God, your makeup must be a mess. “Will you excuse me for a minute, Greg?” He pulls out your chair and you bustle into the bathroom to freshen up, praying to all that is holy that you’re not swaying in your heels.

In front of the vanity you stare at your reflection in the mirror. What are you doing? You’re not a kid anymore.

Knuckles rap on the door.

A shot of panic strikes your core, and you call out, “Someone’s in here.”

Footfalls fade into the background noise.

You shrug off the paranoia and comb your hair, fix your bangs, and reapply your makeup, check your teeth for lipstick, and out the door you stroll with your head held high. On the way to the table you’re careful in your heels. One slip in the wrong direction and the night could catapult into one of the most embarrassing of your life. Sailing across the room and landing face-down in the hardwood with your skirt hiked up around your waist is not how you yearn to end your evening.

At the table, you lower to your chair and steeple your hands over crossed legs, your foot playfully swinging one heel. Greg has his cell phone to his ear, and you can’t help but overhear his conversation. “I told you, I’d deal with her later. Why are you always all over my shit?” With an erect finger he punches the off button, clearly pissed off about something.

When his gaze meets yours, his facial muscles ease. A warm smile toys with the corners of his lips. “So,” he says, breaking the awkward silence, “you ready to get outta here?”


“I meant, I could give you a lift home. Nothing more.”

You scan the room for your friends, who are nowhere. “Well, uh, sure. I think my friends deserted me anyway.” You lean forward and lower your voice. “Say, you’re not—” a nervous giggle escapes from deep inside— “a mass murderer or anything, right?”

Greg waves a dismissive hand. “Be serious.”

Even though that tiny voice inside notices he never answered the question, you accompany him to his vehicle, a newer model Mercedes with tinted windows.

Hmm…he must have a good job. See? You had nothing to worry about. He really is perfect.

A few miles down the road you instruct him to, “Take a right at the lights.”

Gas pedal floored, he blows through the lights.

You swivel in your seat and peer out the back windshield as the road sign gets farther and farther away. “You missed my turn.”

“Did I? Don’t worry. I know a shortcut.”

You take one last glance through the back windshield, every bone in your body screaming to jump from the speeding car. Perhaps you’re overthinking this. He missed one turn. No big deal.

You face front because you don’t want to accuse the man that has offered to drive you home. You’re probably being paranoid again. Damn broken marriage. You’ve lost your drive for adventure, your ability to live free, wild, let loose and have a good time.

When the Mercedes veers onto a dirt road through the woods, panic drums at your ears, blood sluices through your veins. Still convincing yourself that this is all in your head, you manage a confident front. “Where’re we going, Greg?”

Slam. He backhands you in the face and shatters your nose. Whoosh. The entire world spins on its axis. Cupped hands over your nose, warm blood pours through your fingers. Over and over you tug the door handle.


With a closed fist you pound on the passenger window.


Greg grabs handfuls of hair and yanks your head backward. Eerily calm, he looms over your face like storm clouds over an unmerciful sea. “You aren’t goin’ anywhere, bitch.” He lets go, and you freeze. You can’t speak, scream, or cry for help.

Why are you just sitting there? Run. Now.

The headlights shut down. Robotically he slides the shifter into park and rotates toward you. He smirks—snide and cold—and your heart skids to a stop. A gazillion things race through your mind in the course of a few seconds. Why you? You’ve been good your whole life. How did you let this happen? Oh, no! What’s he gonna do next?

The final question only lingers until the moonlight bounces off the sharp blade that Greg levels at your throat. Silent and swift, he draws the knife across your jugular.

As your lifeblood spurts on the glass, all doubt washes away like watercolors left outside in the rain. This moment—right here and now—is your last.

Stephen King quote

Let’s test your gut. At which point did you seal your own fate?



About Sue Coletta

Member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers, Sue Coletta is the bestselling, award-winning author of psychological thrillers and mysteries. Sue’s short stories and flash fiction have appeared in OOTG Flash Fiction Offensive magazine and numerous anthologies, and her forensic articles have appeared in InSinC Quarterly.

In 2017, Feedspot awarded her Murder Blog as one of the Top 50 Crime Blogs on the net. Sue’s the communications manager for Forensic Science and the Serial Killer Project, and co-hosts the radio show “Partners in Crime” on Writestream Radio Network. As a way to help fellow crime writers, Sue created a team of crime experts (detectives, coroners, police captains, etc.) and founded #ACrimeChat on Twitter. She’s also a proud member of the Kill Zone (see details in full bio — menu bar).


  1. She had her chance to realize that she ain’t ready, when memories of the ex-marriage jammed her radar.

    She had the warning that Greg’s facade is presented aka faked, as she eavesdropped on his phone call. She was informed about him hiding frustration or aggression, but chose to ignore it.

    But the key-mistake was she went home with a guy she barely knew. In Germany we have a proverb about ‘5 dates or whore’. Meaning no self-respecting woman in her right mind simply jumps from reality into a porn-fantasy…

    Hm… Potato Chips? Nice to contemplate. But over all: Thanks to Sue Coletta for another interesting reading. One of the skills I found outstanding about ‘Marred’ and your website is that you implement academic knowledge & research lore without it ever ‘reading’ artificial or detached.


    • Thank you, Andre. That’s one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever gotten. Much appreciated. You made my night. 🙂

      And I agree with your assessment of the story. She had many chances to bolt and chose to ignore her gut.

  2. Yikes! I was caught up in the story from the beginning to the end and “clutching my pearls”. Very chilling. There were so many signs that she should have listened to. Leaving with a stranger sealed her fate and her “so called” friends should never have left without her. If we come together, we leave together. Thanks for the post. It was a great story.

  3. Oooo, chilling.
    Traci Kenworth recently posted…Reading Links…12/9/15My Profile

  4. Wow! Great story, and perfectly realistic. Perhaps I have always been the suspicious, untrusting sort, but I definitely would never leave the bar with a stranger, and I would never let a friend do that either! But the way the character reasoned… I’ve seen many friends do that, especially when drunk. Alcohol dulls gut instincts. Also, there’s the whole societal thing regarding how women are conditioned to be polite and grateful when someone is being nice, and are often told they are being “paranoid” when their gut feels that something is wrong. But if we talk about it – and write about it – hopefully more women will trust their gut instincts and get out of these dangerous situations.
    Heather recently posted…Accidental Outdated Slang in YAMy Profile

    • Exactly my point, Heather. Actually, I wrote this as a warning for a young woman in my life, who can so easily fall victim. Now I just need to figure out how to get her to see it. 🙂

  5. Wow, this was amazing. It’s a great story, but it teaches us some things too. There is a lesson for the unwary, and a great writing lesson. (And you’re scaring me a tiny bit.)
    Craig recently posted…The mentor characterMy Profile

  6. Great story, Sue! Thanks! In my WIP I’m working with a MC who doesn’t listen to her gut instincts. Your piece inspires me to go back and make sure that conflict–listen/not listen to the gut–comes through. 🙂
    JHolmes, author recently posted…To the Revision CaveMy Profile

  7. Fabulous story, Sue. I have the same problem of seeing good in everyone and that has often come back and bitten me in the tail-end (thankfully, nothing of this horrid sort). She was definitely foolish in her actions, but her reasoning was believable. I’d like to think I would have said no right at the start (no buying the drink) but being in a situation is different than looking at it from the outside. Her friends should have asked if she wanted a lift home, rather than assuming she’d want to leave with Greg. Sometimes friends can contribute to the problem too, without even realizing it.

    Completely riveting from beginning to end!

  8. So, so creepy and real. Great, terrifying read. So many moments when she should have known better. I agree with Gary, the word “lovely” should have alerted her, and certainly as soon as he pulled up a chair and her gut said, “Hmm…”
    Colette Sartor recently posted…Million Writers AwardMy Profile

  9. Yo Sue. Thanks so much for the well-told story. Great stuff. You rock!
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  10. Wowza!!! What a story! It got me totally pinned into the horror that was about to happen. Great writing! I think accepting the first drink and not stopping is where the trap was. She had a few warnings – that phone call…
    Joycelin Leahy recently posted…The Ownership of the Yam Hole – My Oral HistoryMy Profile

  11. Wendy Anne Darling

    I’d have followed my friends out onto the dance floor and kept dancing until he went away. Then I’d go home.

  12. Oh, Sue, this is such a compelling story!!! I was drawn in just because there were so many places where the protagonist could have stopped things. And at each point, something tells her to stop – that it’s dangerous. As you say, why doesn’t she listen to herself? Something, whether it’s attraction, lack of trust in herself, or something else, draws her in further. And people like Greg know that and take advantage of it. Beautifully done!
    Margot Kinberg recently posted…I’m Back to Livin’ Floridays*My Profile

    • Thank you, Margot. It was fun to write. And you’re right. People like Greg prey on people like her, and unfortunately, it’s easier to see one’s own mistakes after the fact than during. Glad you enjoyed it. 😉

  13. *Like!*

  14. She should have left with her friends when she saw them at the door.

    I would never have so many drinks, especially with someone I don’t know. Leaving with him is definitely out of the question. He could vent his frustrations out on me.

    Great story.

    • I agree, Michelle. She did everything wrong, but it’s funny how too often we convince ourselves that we’re only imagining the danger. Thank you. Glad you enjoyed the story.

  15. The killer slashed the connection. He was THAT real!

  16. Oooooo! Good story, well-told. I wanted to scream for her.

    The moment she sat down alone. Cardinal rule, taught to me by the villainous 28 million dollar man, Larry Boyd, a former boyfriend, thirty years older than me, I met when I first entered the dating scene after an 18 year marriage.

    You never, ever, sit down alone. You become an instant target. Unless your looking for a pick-up. Then, you’re on your own.

    Also, going off alone with a guy who’s already pissed off about somebody was definitely not a smart move.

  17. Right at the word “lovely”. That doesn’t sound like the typical bar-guy thing to say.

    BTW, Sue… this is riveting writing. Really good! No wonder you’re a bestselling author 😉

    • Aww, Garry. *blush* I’ve always wanted to write in 2nd POV, but never had the chance until now. It was fun. Yup, caught the “lovely” word, eh? Your detective instincts are still tuned in, my friend. That’s when I would’ve bolted, too. 🙂

  18. Oooooo! Good story, well-told. I wanted to scream for her.

    The moment she sat down alone. Cardinal rule, taught to me by the villainous 28 million dollar man, Larry Boyd, a former boyfriend, thirty years older than me, I met when I first entered the dating scene after an 18 year marriage.

    You never, ever, sit down alone. You become an instant target. Unless your looking for a pick-up. Then, you’re on your own.

    Also, going off alone with a guy who’s already pissed off about somebody was definitely not a smart move.

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