Osgood as She Gets

I hope you enjoy this little sample, this appetizer of my novel Osgood as She Gets, the third book in the Spectral Inspector series. 

What if I haven’t read the first one, Coop?

Well, what kind of self promotor would I be if I didn’t say you should! That said, this book stands apart from the first two, telling its own story from start to finish.

I like your sexy books, why should I read your scary ones?

…cuz horror is awesome? Also she’s a pretty damned sexy heroine. 

When is the book coming out? 

Leap Day 2024! That’s right, 2/29/24.

Content Warning:

In previous Osgood books, I’ve put the trigger warning page in the back, so that people aren’t spoiled by it. As this book features some more overt triggers, I decided to put them here, up front. Feel free to skip over the rest of this note if you’d rather not read it. If, for whatever reason, its presence offends you, feel free to fuck right off.

Osgood As She Gets contains scenes and themes of suicide & murder, by characters as young as thirteen, brief sexual assault, homophobia, and toxic masculinity. If you would like to read the book but avoid any of these things, please ask a friend to read it first.


High school be damned, thought Beth. Sophie and Anna wanna hang out again!

She tried to remember the last time the three of them had been together but could barely pinpoint it. It hadn’t been August, possibly not even July. No, it must’ve been the last week in June because they’d made plans to bike down to Navy Pier for the fireworks on the 3rd of July. But they hadn’t biked down, had they? No, only Beth had, after all. She’d waited and waited and waited some more at the bike racks just out in front of the dock turned mall turned tourist mecca. When the fireworks began to rain down reds, oranges, and blues, she’d gotten off her bike to watch from behind the entrance to the pier. That heaviness in her stomach had returned as she stood there—Elizabeth Garcia, age 13, separated from the fun by seemingly the most inconsequential of walls: a school year.

Now, though, she joyfully followed Sophie and Anna up the embankment crammed with bushes; thorns tugged at her coat, which was much too warm for September but was the only one that fit her. As her father kept mentioning, she’d hit a growth spurt that year and was … Beth cringed even thinking of the word … developing. Sure, she was happy to be developing, especially here with the older girls (further along in their own development), but that didn’t mean she wanted Dad to point it out, especially at dinner, something she’d mentioned to Sophie and Anna as they walked down Bryn Mawr Avenue. The older girls giggled and nodded, perhaps empathizing, though she’d wondered if they were laughing at or with her.

But no, Sophie Moreau wouldn’t laugh. Not at something like that. She had been Beth’s best friend since Beth was in first grade and Sophie was in second. She’d only lived a block down and around the corner, in the apartments on Ravenswood. Back when they were little, with dishwater blond hair that their mothers would still put into pigtails with ribbons, they’d even looked so similar. Only seven months separated them, after all; it was just seven in the wrong way—Sophie (and Anna) were early in the months cut off, April and June respectively, while Beth’s September 1st birthday was late enough that she’d been forced into classes a year behind.

That was another thing, too, that she wanted to mention to them. She understood that they might be too busy for her. Freshmen at St. Gregory’s High School and all. But they could’ve sent her a text on her birthday. Or at least a TikTok video. She’d watched both their feeds in case they might take a moment to recognize their long-time friend. But neither had. Only lip-synced to T-Swift and played games, both Graveyard and Elevator. Beth didn’t understand high schoolers yet. She hoped things would start to make sense as she got closer, but that felt so far away. Just under a year of junior high left, just under a year of those friends.

“Shit,” said Anna. “Hide!”

The three dropped to their knees in the bushes, a thorn scratching Beth’s leg deep enough that it tore a small rift in the side of her thermal leggings. Shit is right, she thought. She looked up from her calf, where, thankfully, the thorn had only made a thin pink line through the baby-fine blond hairs that her mother had said she was too young to shave. Thank god they were blond. Unless you were looking or, like Beth, knew they were there, you couldn’t even see them. The other girls in her grade had yet to notice as they stripped down for gym, their locker room full of the puberty spectrum. So far, though, she’d been able to keep her head low. 

Finally, she saw why they were hiding in the bushes. A homeless man pushed a shopping cart stacked high with clear garbage bags full of crushed aluminum cans. His face was clean, his features sad. At once, the pit in her stomach made Beth wish she could offer her winter jacket to him, but he was too big, and she too little. When the homeless man pushed past, Anna popped back up, her sea-green eyes wild with excitement. Something far back in her mind reminded Beth of that weird old British show her father had insisted they watch together. Something about “How Not To Be Seen.” The answer, she remembered, was not to stand up. Thankfully, Anna hadn’t exploded when she stood.

At the top of the embankment ran an oft-used Metra train track. Beth hadn’t always noticed, but when playing in her backyard down on Gregory Street, she could hear the train dimly rumble past multiple times an hour. With that in mind, Beth looked first north and then south. In the evening’s dimming light, she could see a hazy headlight far down the track, still faint due to layers of low-hanging air pollution. That train wouldn’t be here for ten minutes or more. The other way, toward Rogers Park and then Evanston, showed no such light. The time to walk along the tracks was now.

So, the three girls walked. Beth was in the lead, with Anna and Sophie bringing up the rear a few yards behind. Beth wanted to ask if they’d walk with her instead of following. It made it seem like they were part of an entirely different group. Of course, that was the truth, wasn’t it? A reality that couldn’t be denied or helped. No matter how much Beth wanted it to be otherwise, the gap between them was more than just a grade now. While it hadn’t mattered much going from grade school to junior high, the gulf between junior high and high school seemed nearly insurmountable. But she had surmounted it, hadn’t she? By getting them here at all. They hadn’t spoken for the month since school started, which seemed to be happening earlier and earlier as the years went by. But that had changed when their WhatsApp text chain reawakened this morning with a simple hey, from Anna, followed by a Hay, Miss u, from Sophie.

Beth, still in bed because Mom and Dad were out and there’d been no one to chide her for wasting the day away, had been elated. Some light back-and-forth texts followed. All surface, no substance. They agreed, though, that there should be a hang and that hang should be soon. That evening? Glory of glories, all were free. What should they do? Hang, said Beth because she knew someplace cool. She didn’t have an actual plan, but Sophie and Anna didn’t know that. Beth only knew that her older brother had spoken about this route to a parentless wonderland. She could see it ahead, in fact, the path created by mountain bike tires and jeans-clad ankles leading down the other side of the elevated tracks. As Glen had foretold, that path downward was on the other side of some chain link fence with razor wire up top, behind several squat yellow brick buildings with sizeable white garage doors.

“What did you find back there?” she’d asked him.

“Porn,” he said.

She’d scrunched her nose in disgust at the idea of her older brother, a senior now, finding dirty pictures behind that building. She certainly didn’t like that it made her think momentarily about his thing getting hard. She’d shoved that image from her mind before it could cause any lasting damage.

Beth may not have liked porn, but something felt so adult about it, and going somewhere that had it felt like the kind of rite of passage the older girls would appreciate, hopefully as much as the box of Marlboros in her pocket. Sure, the crushed box only held six cigarettes, and some sawdust was bouncing around in the package, since she’d taken it off the shelf from Dad’s workroom in the garage. But she doubted anyone could feel she wasn’t cool enough or advanced enough when she lit up a smoke on the edge of a truck delivery bay.

“This is it,” she told them, pointing at the beaten trail.

“Good,” said Sophie with a shiver.

The wind blew cold up here, colder than in the trench of the streets because it had a straight path nearly from the Chicago Loop up to their neighborhood. She wondered why the older girls hadn’t worn thicker coats. Sophie wore a thin blue windbreaker, and Anna wore a purple and black plaid flannel. Both appropriate for this time of year, sure, but neither could defend against a blast of Chicago’s wind. Beth, though, felt a bit of sweat at the small of her back. Whether from her heavy coat or from other things on her mind, she couldn’t be sure. Because she barely knew those other things.

Leaning back at an almost comical angle to keep their balance, they descended the embankment on the far side of Ravenswood onto the cracked and faded pavement of this liminal space. Here, four buildings surrounded them in a C-shape, butting up against the tracks, forming a communal area large enough for trucks to move in and out, to back into berths in the buildings and unload their miscellaneous goods and services to the various companies that used these yellow warehouses as their storage and supply. One cargo trailer sat fallow, its cab having abandoned it maybe a foot away from a closed garage door. Beyond that, this area was empty. Exactly as Glen had promised.

“If you tell mom I told you about it,” he’d warned, “I’m taking your Switch to college.” An idle threat, perhaps. Beth wasn’t sure Glen was going to college. At least not in a way that taking her Nintendo Switch meant anything other than removing it from her room to his. Also, he wouldn’t dare. She knew what he got up to with Alisha Torres in his room at night when the door was supposed to remain open. Even a cracked door didn’t prevent them from making out, as the sound of anyone coming upstairs would give them plenty of time to wipe lipstick from their mouths, fix their hair, reseat that bra. Across the hall, though, it gave Beth a clear view, and that was how she’d seen her first nipple on an entire teenage breast. It was brown, which surprised her. She’d only ever seen pink. She’d stopped watching when she saw Alisha fumbling with her brother’s strained zipper. There were definitely things that Beth Garcia didn’t want to see.

“Oh my god,” giggled Sophie. She slapped her right hand to her mouth, her left occupied with a short maple branch she was using to poke at something behind a cinderblock cove. Anna’s exultation when she walked up was similar. All that was left was for Beth to see what had surprised them. Even toward the end of last school year, when they all still were in junior high, Sophie and Anna had started to make jokes about “tits” and “bush” and “pussies” that made Beth uncomfortable in a strange way. Down deep in her stomach came an ache, and her cheeks got hot. Thankfully, she didn’t flush red when she felt this, so no one but her knew. She’d hoped that she’d grow out of it but hadn’t yet, and as she walked over to Sophie’s discovery, the flush she felt was hot and the ache deep.

Sure enough, Sophie had found porn. And while Beth had seen the centerfold in her father’s Playboy once, thanks to a sleepover dare that had involved bringing it to the circle of giggly girls in the basement, she’d never seen porn of this … what? Level. Intensity, thought Beth. She looked, though, because while Beth Garcia may not have been comfortable, she was no prude. She’d seen illustrations of “the act” because her mother kept a copy of The Joy of Sex in the nightstand next to her parent’s bed, beside to that round thing that vibrated. Beth only had the faintest notion of what that was for, but she knew that seeing it gave her that uncomfy feeling. This, though, made her feel sick to her stomach. The man was behind the woman, and his thing bent upward into her butt. Objectively, Beth knew that this was something people did, she’d heard the term “buttfucking” thrown around school amidst the requisite giggles. But this was different. His … dick …was red and covered in thick veins. The wrinkly set of balls beneath were clothed in fine brown hair. But the most distressing bit was above, not the butthole, but her vagina, which seemed to all be coming … out? Bright reddish-pink and gleaming with a sheen that Beth didn’t quite understand but was sure she didn’t want to see any longer.

She stepped back.

Anna laughed. “Jesus, who just dumps all these magazines.” She crouched and flipped one, then another. “Hustler. Barely Legal.” Beth couldn’t believe the older girl was touching them. The heat in her face spread, carrying the feeling of shame with it. Once she’d gotten caught stealing quarters from the mug on her mother’s dresser. She’d felt that same shame when her mother had pointedly asked, “Did you steal from me, Lizzie?” Beth was sure she’d lied before that moment, but she couldn’t remember any before as vividly as that lie – “No,” eyes wide and glistening with tears at the very thought of such an offense.

“Oh, holy shit,” said Anna. “Gimme your stick.”

Sophie complied, laughingly asking, “What?” as she did. Anna poked the stick down, and when it came back up, it had a yellowed … bag on the end? No, not a bag, too small for…

Anna swung it around, a wide grin on her face, her freckled cheeks scrunching. The thing on the stick passed within six inches of Beth’s face, and she smelled something rank.

“What is that? Beth cried.

“Anna, don’t,” said Sophie, putting her hand on Anna’s arm.

“You really don’t know what this is?” Anna chuckled.

Now Beth was sure the older girls would see the embarrassed flush of her cheeks. She looked at the thing on the stick, thankfully further from her now, and tried to figure it out.

“It’s okay,” said Sophie. She took Beth’s arm and walked away from giggling Anna.

Beth wondered if she should share the cigarettes now. She reached into her pocket and felt her keys, the metal, and the crinkly packet.

“Dude,” called Anna.

“I told you not to call me ‘dude,’” said Sophie.

“I just wanted Beth to see,” Anna said. They watched as she pursed her lips and flung the thing away from them. It arced over the dumpsters to the bushes on the embankment.

Beth was thankful that it didn’t land where she planned to climb back up. She pulled out the cigarette pack, a Bic lighter tucked inside. “Smoke?” she asked the girls and saw a pleasing wave of esteem pass through their eyes. She’d impressed them.

“Since when have you smoked?” asked Sophie.

Beth shrugged, hoping that’d be the end of it. She certainly didn’t want to tell the truth, that this was the first time she’d put a cigarette in her mouth. She flicked the lighter once, twice, C’mon… then she got it, a flame. She held it to her lips and sucked, getting a lungful of acrid smoke. She coughed hard, doubling over, gagging before she came back up, cigarette pinched between her outstretched pointer and middle fingers and blew the remaining smoke in her lungs in Anna’s face. Anna coughed but blocked her mouth so they couldn’t see. Then she reached out and snapped her fingers for the lighter. Beth obliged. Her second puff of the cigarette went better; she didn’t draw the smoke all the way in, but just held it in her mouth. It tasted horrible. Why did grownups do this? She knew it had something to do with addiction, and Dad said “the influence of big tobacco” was responsible. Mom had told him that was just an excuse.

Both Sophie and Anna’s puffs seemed effortless. Here again, Beth felt behind. Her friends had clearly smoked before. Seen porn before. They knew what that thing had been, that thing that Beth now suspected had been a used condom. She wanted to ask them, to ask why that woman’s … pussy … seemed so red and angry. But she didn’t want them to laugh. Sophie might not, but Anna would. She wanted to ask why they hadn’t hung out with her. Did they think she was a baby now? She wasn’t that much younger. No more than she’d ever been. She wanted to ask what had happened when they’d played the Graveyard Game. What had they seen?

She knew what she’d seen.

“Now what?” asked Anna.

The older girls looked at Beth with expectation in their eyes. She didn’t know what they wanted. She’d taken them someplace cool. She’d given them cigarettes. She noticed that Sophie had already crushed hers out after only taking, what? Two, three puffs? But Anna, Anna was sucking on that thing, “Like a dick,” said Beth.

“What?” asked Sophie.

Beth pointed at Anna. “You’re sucking on that thing like a dick.”

Anna’s eyebrows went up in surprise, but then she laughed. Then Beth and Sophie did, too. As the three stood laughing, Beth felt things were as they should be. This trio, friends for years, through sleepovers, and runs to the McDonald’s up the street that they went to even when they weren’t supposed to cross Ashland Avenue, and the 7-11 across Clark Street where they’d steal lip balm and Bubble Yum while one of them would distract the clerk at the weird hotdog roller station. This moment of shared laughter brought a joy to Beth that she hadn’t felt in weeks. A pleasure that suggested things would be alright, what she’d seen hadn’t been real, and nothing needed to happen here beyond friends enjoying each other’s company.

But then Anna’s laugh turned mean. Beth couldn’t quite explain the shift, but she knew it when she heard it.

“You only say that because you suck clits,” said Anna. Sophie told her to stop, first with her eyes, then her words.

“I don’t!” said Beth defensively. But she stopped before saying, “I don’t suck anything,” knowing it would put her back in that uncomfortable spot. The little girl. Instead, she stopped Anna’s laughter another way.

The knife in Beth’s pocket had been purloined (this week’s hardest vocabulary word in Miss Belzer’s class) at the same time as the Marlboros. Same place, too. Her father’s toolbox. She’d been looking for one when she found the other. That it worked out that way had helped her come to grips with what she was about to do. What her plan was. After all, she’d seen it. She’d seen the crossing of the tracks, the discovery of porn behind the dumpsters. She’d seen it, despite never having been there. Another bit of the mystery of the Graveyard Game, perhaps. Beth hadn’t posted hers on TikTok when she’d done it. Hadn’t even brought her phone. She’d just gone and looked. Had seen what she saw. Felt what she felt.

Then, around a week later, she arrived at the most critical bit. The knife was thin and razor-sharp, which Beth learned when she almost immediately cut her finger “testing” it. It had something to do with fishing. At least, she thought so; it smelled like the Chicago River in late summer. The seven-inch blade easily unfolded from its silvery blue handle. Getting it open was easy, Beth knew, but closing it back up was when one was apt to lose a fingertip. Once opened, Beth knew that she didn’t have time to waste; too much time would mean both getting caught and inflicting more pain than necessary, and Beth absolutely didn’t want Sophie to suffer. She would’ve started with Sophie, were it not for Anna’s laughter. That needed to end.

End it did when Beth pushed the blade up through Anna’s chin. She had expected a lot more resistance because if it went to the hilt through her chin, didn’t that also mean it had pushed through her mouth into her sinuses? Beth flicked her wrist to the right, slicing the knife through the inside of Anna’s head, again amazed by how smoothly it happened. With her fist around the knife handle and pressed firmly under Anna’s chin, blood hadn’t yet begun to flow, but it would, and when it did, Sophie would see and scream and be afraid, and Beth did not want that. She didn’t want any of this. But she had to. She knew she had to. It was them or her, and the thing was watching.

Sure enough, Sophie told her, “Don’t hit her,” clearly thinking the stab had been a punch or hit. That was good.

Beth pulled the knife down and out, and while the blade was red now, the wound in the girl’s chin seemed to be just a sideways slit, like a giant paper cut. Beth hoped it felt like the worst paper cut ever. Anna could be so mean to her. Especially lately. And she infused that meanness into Sophie. Sophie, her friend. Sophie, her best friend. Sophie, with whom she’d hoped to sit up late in their future dorm room, talking about their first loves, first heartaches, and first explorations. But none of that could happen. Not if Beth wanted those things for herself. Her swing was true, thankfully, and the knife split Sophie’s throat so effortlessly that Beth wasn’t at first sure she’d done anything. Had she missed? No, Sophie staggered backward, bringing her hands to her throat, and then the blood sprayed in an arc as she fell backward and to the ground.

Beth turned her attention back to Anna. A thock sound came from the girl’s mouth, or maybe her throat. Her eyes seemed unfocused, and Beth wondered if she’d actually lobotomized her. She’d read about how psychiatrists used to do that with an icepick. Well, she’d read about it until her mother had read the book jacket and took it away. No more unsupervised trips to the library for Beth Garcia. 

Lobotomized or not, Anna was still standing, so Beth moved behind her, careful to not stand close enough for Anna to grab in one of her involuntary hand spasms. Beth slid the knife deftly across Anna’s throat. Just cutting a chicken breast, she told herself. Almost done, almost done. After the slice, Beth put the toe of her pink flowered galosh against Anna’s butt and shoved. The older girl went first to her knees, then her upper half hit the ground with a decisive crunch. A bloom of red spread beneath her.

Back to Sophie. Beth felt tears on her cheeks and whispered, “I’m sorry.” She’d hoped Sophie’s slit throat would be a decisive ending, but soft sounds, like hiccups, were still coming from her friend’s mouth. Was Sophie trying to breathe but couldn’t? Beth thought so, seeing bubbles in the blood at her throat. She whispered another apology, one she meant with all her heart, as she slid the knife’s thin blade between Sophie’s beautiful blue right eye and the bridge of her nose. She felt it grind just a bit and realized it was sliding along Sophie’s skull, so she pointed it up toward the crown of her friend’s head and, with her wrist, flicked it back and forth and up and down. The hiccup sound stopped. Just as the thocking sound from Anna had.

Beth pulled off her winter coat, shivering as the wind tried to winnow its way through the stitches of her sweater. She turned the coat inside out so the blood (surprisingly minimal, thought Beth) was on the inside. She climbed up to look into the first dumpster. Mostly paper and boxes. Beth frowned, wondering if this place had ever heard of recycling. Despite the horrible stench that grew as she climbed up the side, the second dumpster was what she’d wanted—an appalling stew of decaying groceries, bags and boxes, and other miscellaneous waste. She was pretty sure she saw a poop floating by. Beth lowered her coat into the dumpster, submerging it in the stagnant water, and nervously slid her leg down atop it, using her galosh to push it entirely under. When it stayed below the water line, Beth swung her leg up and around, landing next to the dumpster in a dismount that would’ve made Miss Stephanie, her gymnastics coach, proud.

One more thing, and then we’re done, she thought. But then she stopped and wondered, had she actually thought that? The sentence had felt so alien, so external.

The roar of the northbound Metra train snapped her back to the moment. It had about a mile between her and its next stop at Ridge, so it’d be going full speed when it reached her. Quickly, Beth scrambled up the side of the embankment, her hands digging into the mud and dirt on the path. They were nearly black when she reached the top, as was the knife she still held. She looked at it for a moment, mesmerized by what it had done, what she had done. The train whistle, still probably half a mile out, brought her back again. She carefully laid the knife on the track and looked toward the train. She couldn’t see the conductor, not even with her vision, which the eye doctor had said was better than perfect. She hadn’t been sure how that was possible, but it assured her of one crucial thing: if she couldn’t see him, he couldn’t see her as anything more than a shape or shadow near the tracks. She crouched down in the bushes. Thorns grabbed her, but her adrenaline was pumping so intensely she couldn’t feel them. Her eyes stayed fixed on the knife on the track, set so close that it surprised her when the commuter train entered her field of vision. She heard a clank, then a whistle over her head that she assumed was the knife, and in another moment, the train had passed on its way to the station.

While a commuter or two could have seen the bodies, they wouldn’t have had a chance to get a good look and certainly wouldn’t have seen her in the bushes in her navy sweater. She looked over her shoulder down the embankment and saw, thankfully, the shimmer of the knife. She scrambled back down, and when she reached it, she felt pretty pleased. The blade had been flattened out in several places, so that it resembled a hunk of scrap metal. The handle was also nearly flat and gnarled to indistinguishability. Beth pressed the toe of her galosh, which had done so many things already, down upon the blade and lifted the handle, snapping it off. She tossed the handle into the murky sludge with her coat, and, after looking around for other options, took a deep breath and flung the blade. When she heard it clunk atop the semi-trailer, she let her breath out slowly.

That was it, right?

The thing near their bodies nodded.

After climbing back across the tracks, she rinsed her galoshes and hands at the hose spigot sticking out next to the sign designating the Ravenswood Community Flower Bed. She heard the bells of St. Gregory’s, letting her know it was six o’clock. Time to get home for dinner. She walked the couple of blocks cautiously, wondering if someone would leap from the shadows at any moment to shout, “I know what you did!”

But they didn’t.

She snuck past her mother on the phone in the kitchen and made it upstairs without being seen. In the hallway, she ran into Glen. “Were you rolling in mud, you weirdo?” he asked.

“I fell, dick.” Then, for good measure, Beth stuck out her tongue.

Glen laughed and raised his hands. “I surrender.” He pushed past her and went downstairs.

As Beth Garcia showered, washing her hair and rinsing her body, the entire afternoon felt like a strange, hazy dream. By the time she sat down for dinner, all she remembered was that she’d seen her friends. When her mother asked Glen and her what they’d done that day, she listened to him talk about his girlfriend, ready to say she’d gone out with Sophie and Anna. She knew her mother would be happy. Shannon Garcia had been concerned enough about the relationship between the three girls that she’d been prodding recently. Beth knew she’d tried to keep her inquiries relaxed and casual, but her mother was incapable of either.

When her brother finished and Beth’s turn was up, she said, “I…” and stopped.

She had no idea how she’d spent her afternoon.

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