Four Steps Under (Psychological Suspense)

Brandon Boader has developed the unique ability to transform himself into a different person, at will, through self-hypnosis. He could temporarily become a killer to take revenge on the men who murdered his parents. But then, how could he ever live with himself? And besides, if he “goes under” too deep (Four Steps Under), he could literally lose his mind. Forever.

When Brandon was six years old, his parents were killed during a home invasion. The two brothers who perpetrated the crime went free because of evidence mishandling at the crime lab. Brandon is determined to finally settle the score—without getting caught.

He recruits Dani Dimingo, a young woman he knew in junior high school, to help him carry out his scheme of revenge. The chemistry between them is undeniable, and they have a lot in common. Dani has struggled with mental problems too, having spent half of her teen years in a psychiatric facility. It’s one of the reasons she’s right for the job.

But while the two are executing Brandon’s elaborate plan, Dani becomes terrified when she suspects that Brandon is about to kill one of the brothers. She can’t believe Brandon is capable of murder, but given the strange mental state he’s imposed upon himself, does Brandon even know what he’s doing? Has one of his alter egos completely taken over his mind? And if so, is there any way for Dani to stop him before he destroys Brandon’s life as well as her own?

Raves for Four Steps Under

Five Stars – “Well crafted and original…his story material is meticulously woven, in suspense/mystery fashion, suggesting genre, but actually supplying something completely unique.” – Amazon reviewer

Five Stars – “The whole idea and concept of the book was one of the most interesting things I had ever read.” – Amazon UK reviewer

Five Stars – “By finding unique scenarios and giving them plausible existence, [Robinson] leads his readers into an exciting journey of suspense and intrigue.” – Amazon reviewer

Five Stars – “…holds you riveted till the end.” – Amazon reviewer


Read the five-chapter excerpt…

Chapter 1

Brandon Boader walked into his psychiatrist’s office for what he hoped would be his final session.

The guard closed the door behind him.

Dr. Davis was sitting in his usual chair across from the couch. “Good morning, Brandon.” He cocked his head to one side. “I assume I am speaking to Brandon.”

“That’s funny, Doc.”

“Just wanted to make sure.”

“Fair enough.” The tall, lean thirty-year-old sat down on the couch. “I don’t need to lie down today, do I?”

“Suit yourself.” He picked up a set of papers from the small table beside his chair. “I’m sure you know what these are.”

“My release papers?”

“Yes.” He studied Brandon’s face. “I suppose you think I should just sign them and wish you well.”

Brandon shrugged. “I don’t know why you wouldn’t.”

“I’m required to detail the specifics of your current mental state. But if I indicate that you’re suffering from dissociative identity disorder, then I can’t possibly—”

“I’m not suffering from anything—except from being locked up in this place. I don’t have any mental disorders, and you know that.”

The doctor stared at him. “How many personalities do you have—other than your own?”

“Why are you asking me questions you already know the answer to?”

The doctor held up a finger. “Bear with me. It’s all part of the process.”

Brandon shook his head.

Dr. Davis said, “Now, answer the question, please. How many personalities do you have—other than your own?”

“Six. Six personas. All with their own wants and needs and idiosyncrasies.”

“And his or her own voice and mannerisms.”

“Yes.”

“Suppose I sign this release, and then you walk out of here and become a serial killer?”

“Doc, you know I’m not capable of murder.”

“That’s true, I don’t believe you are. But tell me why I should trust all of your various personas.”

“So, we really have to go through all this again?”

“Just answer the question.”

“Are you recording this? Where’s the camera?” Brandon looked around the room. Perhaps the doctor thought a video might come in handy if he ever needed to justify his decision—in case he signed the release and then Brandon became a mass murderer.

“Brandon, focus. Tell me why I should trust your personas.”

Dr. Davis was playing one of his games, and if Brandon wanted to get out of prison, he needed to play along. What did it matter whether he was being recorded or not?

“I created the personas,” Brandon said. “I built them from the ground up. So, I know for a fact that none of them could ever hurt anyone.”

“That’s simply not true, Brandon. One of your personas attacked your fellow inmate, Jeff Johnson.”

“Okay, yeah. That was Redneck Randy. He was my first attempt at creating a persona. And sure, he punched Jeff in the nose because Jeff hit him in the jaw. So, yes, my personas are allowed to get violent—but only to protect themselves. They would never commit murder.”

“And the very reason you created this team of personas was to protect you from the vulgarities of prison life, correct?”

“That’s one way to put it.”

“Yes, and another way to put it is that the personas keep you from having to deal with conflict. They shield you from difficult situations.”

“Sure. It works for me.”

“Not really. You’re only living—”

“Half a life. Yeah, I know, Doc.”

Dr. Davis studied Brandon’s face. “Every time I sign one of these documents, I put my reputation on the line.”

“You don’t have to worry about me. I’ll be fine out there. I won’t embarrass you.”

“I’d like to believe that.”

“I’ve been stable for months.”

“But how can I be sure somebody won’t set you off the way Bart Hampton did.”

“Bart Hampton’s an animal.”

“So…he got what he deserved?”

“Damn right, he did. But I didn’t do it.”

“He could have bled to death, you know.”

“The world would have been better off.”

“Maybe we should talk about the rape.”

Brandon glared at him.

“Okay, fine.” The doctor leaned forward in his chair. “But after word spread about Mr. Hampton being castrated, everybody thought you did it. They said you were crazy and unpredictable.”

They say a lot of things. I can’t help that. But where’s the proof?”

“Your point is well taken. The crime was never solved.”

“Well, there you go.”

“But everybody quit bothering you after that, didn’t they?”

“Pretty much.”

“But then, after a few months, your reputation began to wane—mostly due to inmate turnover—and the harassment resumed. So, you began to use multiple personas, switching to a different one each day, until everybody thought you were truly a psychopath. That was a very effective technique. From what I understand, even the guards were afraid of you—still are, in fact—and they have guns.”

Brandon smiled and nodded.

“I’m the only one who’s been seeing the real you—when you come in for your sessions.”

“That’s right.”

“Or do I have it backwards?”

“What do you mean?”

“Maybe everybody else is seeing the real you, and I’m seeing one of your personas, designed to trick me into believing that you’re sane. Perhaps the real Brandon Boader is a psychopath and a sexual mutilator.”

“I did not castrate Bart Hampton. Why are you rehashing this now?”

“So, if you didn’t do it, then who did?”

Brandon’s voice began to get louder. “We’ve been over this a hundred times. I. Don’t. Know.”

“Yet, you were the last one seen with him before it happened.”

“I can’t help that.”

“But maybe deep inside your subconscious, you know who did it.”

“You’ve discussed this repeatedly with all six of my personas, so you know that none of them were responsible. You told me you were convinced that they were all telling the truth.”

“Yes. But the thing that keeps me up at night…is wondering how many other personas are lurking inside your head that I haven’t yet discovered, and if, perhaps, one of them is a predator. So, I just don’t know…”

Brandon began to get angry. “What are you trying to say?”

“I’m not sure I can sign this.”

Brandon jumped to his feet. “You son of a bitch!”

“Take it easy, Brandon. And watch the language. You know my rules.”

Brandon lurched toward the doctor. “I don’t give a shit about your rules! I’ve served my two years! I’ve answered all your stupid questions! Now, let me out of this hell hole!”

The doctor looked up at him and spoke in a calm but firm tone. “Sit down.”

Brandon didn’t move, but he lowered his voice. “Not until you sign that thing.”

“Would you like for me to call the guards? Is that what you want?”

Brandon backed away from him and sat down on the couch. “I’m sorry, Doc. But you don’t know what it’s like. I just need to get out of here.”

“Well, I’ve got good news for you.” Dr. Davis put the papers on the table. “This concludes my test.”

“What test?”

“I needed to see how you would deal with a crisis.”

Brandon stared at him.

“And you passed. Not with flying colors, but…”

“What would have caused me to fail?”

“There’s no point in going into that.”

“Tell me, Doc. Please.”

Dr. Davis scratched his cheek. “There were two ways to fail. The first way was if you had backed down from the conflict and gone into your shell. Obviously, you didn’t do that.”

“And what was the other way I could have failed?”

“Poor anger management—which is, of course, the problem that sent you to prison. I have two guards stationed right outside the door, listening. If you had attacked me physically, I would have called for help, and they would have burst in and dragged you back to your cell.”

“And you wouldn’t have signed my release.”

“Correct.”

“That’s a tough test, Doc.” Brandon thought for a moment. “Wait a minute. You weren’t trying to get me to attack you. No. You wanted to see if some unidentified persona would suddenly make an appearance. An Incredible Hulk type thing. But I’ve told you, Doc, there aren’t any other personas. You’ve seen them all. What is it—you’re afraid that one of them could suddenly take over and make me into a vicious killer?”

“It’s just a theory.”

“And that’s all it is, Doc. Look, you’ve had lots of theories about what goes on in my head, and some of them have turned out to be correct, but—”

“You need to stop playing around with self-hypnosis, Brandon. That’s the bottom line. It’s dangerous.”

“I understand your viewpoint.”

“But you don’t agree. I figured you’d say anything to get me to sign these forms.”

He shrugged. “Sure. But it doesn’t really matter what I say today, does it? You already know everything about me.”

“I don’t know nearly as much as I want to know.” Dr. Davis picked up the release forms. “I’m going to miss our sessions, Brandon. You’re the most intriguing patient I’ve ever worked with.”

“Well, I’m glad I was able to offer you a little entertainment.”

The doctor laughed and then turned serious. “I’d like to write a book about your…”

“Unique abilities?”

“Yes.”

“Well then, I guess all the notes you’ve taken will come in handy.”

Dr. Davis cleared his throat. “The technique you’ve developed is absolutely fascinating.”

“Yet you want me to give it up.”

“Only because I’m afraid it will get you into trouble.”

“Are you worried about me, or the public? Because I can promise you, Doc, I am no danger to society.”

“What do you plan to do when you get out—work on that new video game you’ve been talking about?”

“Yes. I can’t wait to get started on it.”

“That’s good. You need to stay busy. I know you have plenty of money in the bank, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work. We humans—”

“Need work. I know. Got it, Doc.”

“I’m sure you’ll find that your computer coding skills have gotten a bit rusty since you’ve been in here.”

“Not at all. I’ve been programming every day—in my head. I think in code. It’s my second language.”

Dr. Davis smiled and shook his head. “Brandon, you’ve still got issues. And I would prefer to keep you here indefinitely because I’d like to continue to study you and learn more about how you manipulate your mind. But that would be selfish.”

“Yes, it would.”

The doctor signed the forms and put them back on the table. “But, would you consider continuing our relationship?”

“Uh…”

“I’m referring to my private practice. We could do monthly sessions. No charge.” He took a business card out of his pocket and handed it to Brandon. “Give me a call when you’re ready.”

Brandon studied the card. “Okay.” Are you kidding me? Brandon never wanted to see his face again. And he hoped the doctor wasn’t serious about writing that book. Brandon didn’t want other people to know about his mind tricks.

But the important thing was this: only one more week of prison.

Then he would be free.

To commit the perfect murder.

Next Chapter —>