Saturday, March 26, 2011

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Portrait


Another crazy flash fiction challenge brought to you by Chuck Wendig. The mission: write a story in 1000 words or less based on the strange picture of the beastly looking boy in the portrait. Visit Chuck's blog for more awesome stories: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2011/03/25/flash-fiction-challenge-the-portrait/


Morty

To say Morty was an odd child would be a vast understatement. We knew right from the moment he twisted himself free from the birth canal and the midwife took a step backward, falling hard on her ass and crossing herself, that Morty was all together different.

“The devil’s child!” Mother scoffed, delirious from a long and difficult labour. And father with terrified eyes, wrapped the baby hastily in a towel and handed him to me. I was thirteen, the eldest of now nine children.

We hid Morty away in the barn that summer and I tended to him completely, afraid that if I left him for longer than five minutes, he’d surely die. But somehow in spite of my father’s predictions that he wouldn’t survive, and my mother’s hostility--her late night rants of how we must drown him in the well--Morty thrived.

I brought him into the house in the fall when it began to turn cold. I kept him locked in the attic, the key safe on a string around my neck. This was late in the 1800s, and while the Salem witch trials had been over for more than two hundred years, there were plenty of ignorant people living in our small Massachusetts town.

None of the family, least of all my mother, gave Morty any attention. But I could see there was something special about him. It was in the way he lay in his cradle watching me as I sang to him late at night when the house was still. His black eyes staring at me, glittering in the dark like twin stars. I wasn’t at all afraid of his unusual cat-like appearance; the whiskers that protruded randomly from his face and the sides of his head, the odd slope where his chin should have been, his misshapen skull, the webbed hands and feet, and the small tail at the base of his spine.

“Suppose he could join the circus,” Father said one day when Morty had started to totter around the attic. His appearance didn’t show any signs of becoming less beastly.

Things took a drastic turn one afternoon when Mother was suppose to be away, and I brought Morty outside for some sunshine. Mother returned unexpectedly. She laid eyes on Morty for the first time since his birth and a look came over her that I’d never seen before. She reached for a pitchfork leaning against the barn and came after him. My screaming alerted Father who managed to wrestle the pitch fork from her grip before she could do any damage.

There was no other choice at that point. For Morty’s safety we had to go away. We were sent to live on a vineyard with an uncle; an old deaf man who spent his days reading or going on long walks and didn’t seem to mind Morty’s appearance; at least he didn’t express it if he did. And it was here in this peaceful environment that things changed for Morty.

I remember precisely the very day things took a turn. Morty was five years old. A sparrow hit the window on the house and died in the garden outside. As I was preparing to burry the bird, Morty held out his hands for it. He brought it’s lifeless body up to his face, and rubbed it against his cheek. Although he still wasn’t talking, he hummed inside his throat. Immediately the bird began to stir. It flapped its wing and then took to the sky. Morty smiled his lopsided little grin, his teeth jutting out. The next incident was when I’d eaten something that made me sick. I had brutal stomach pains. Morty came to me and placed his hands on my stomach. He hummed, that strange little humming I’d seen him do with the bird, and the pain stopped. Pretty soon Morty was curing the old man’s headaches, and eventually, just from Morty placing his little webbed hands over the old man’s ears and humming his little tune, his hearing was miraculously restored.

Within a few years we had regular visitors at the vineyard as word of Morty’s ability to heal had spread. There were cripples, the mentally insane, the blind and people with terminal illnesses who were cured by Morty’s touch. People called him an angel, a deity, and a celestial being from another world who’d come to cure the sick.

But by the time Morty was ten, he began to tire. He’d sleep longer and longer, and he seemed lethargic. This was usually after he’d had a day of healings. It appeared to be sucking his energy. We began to limit the number of people he saw.

Within a year it was painfully obvious that Morty was weakening. I began to worry about him. I stopped the healings all together. I wouldn’t even let him lay hands on me if I had the slightest ailment.

One day in late summer, we got a disturbing letter from Father. Our mother was gravely ill. The doctors had done all they could. They gave her three months. Of course they’d heard about Morty’s miracles. They wanted to come and see if he could help Mother. Two days later they showed up at the vineyard. Mother was little more than a skeleton, her skin the colour of death. We brought her in to see Morty. She stared at him stone-faced for a long time and then her lips made the slightest upward curl and her eyes softened. Morty reached out a gentle hand to touch her cheek. Then he collapsed into her embrace and they held each other. We left them alone. Hours later I was startled to see Mother come down that stairs, her health obviously restored. But it would be the last healing my brother would ever do. It would be the last of anything he would do.

I think I’d always known that it would be like this. That my brother’s mysterious existence, as wondrous and curious as it was, would end all too soon. We buried him in the churchyard and people came from all over the country. Thousands of them. And my mother, weeping for the son she’d rejected. Her saviour.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: Coma by Robin Cook


Coma by Robin Cook Signet 1977

This book was huge when it first came out. I read it when I was in my teens and loved it. It was probably the first medical thriller I've ever read. I saw the movie when it was released staring Michael Douglas (love those books to movies), and back then it was pretty scary. Probably that was due in large part to my youth. Everything is scarier when you're a kid.

The premise of this book is wicked; going into the hospital for routine surgery and never waking up from the anesthetic. I think that appeals to everyone's basic fears about surgery. Who has never considered that possibility, as rare as it might be? The idea of it is terrifying. To me, going under anesthetic is something akin to falling backwards off of a roof and trusting the guy on the ground who says he's going to catch you, really will.

In this story, a young medical student, Susan Wheeler, becomes concerned with the high numbers of patients mysteriously slipping into comas at the hospital where she works and ending up brain dead. And on her own she begins to investigate the cause.

While I did enjoy this book both when I first read it, and now again having re-read it, I had a couple of minor issues with it. Reading it now, I found the writing style a bit stilted and long winded. But once I adjusted myself to it, and accepted that this is how it was written, I was able to get over it and immerse myself fully in the story. Secondly, it might be that fact that Robin Cook is a man writing a female character, or it could be the era it was written in (1970s), but the fact that his heroine Susan Wheeler, has doubts about her own femininity and is questioning whether she is a woman or not because of her chosen profession, was annoying, even slightly offensive. How the hell would her being a doctor not make her a woman?

But the 70s was a time when the women's movement was in full swing and women were joining the workforce in droves, discarding their own mother's ideals of womanhood (the ultimate goal of being a wife and mother) in favour of their professional and sexual freedom. So, I think there may have been some ambiguity about what constituted femininity or what it meant to be a woman when the roles of women were changing so dramatically. Perhaps this is what Robin Cook was trying to say. I don't know. It really is another topic entirely.

Regardless, the character of Susan Wheeler, comes across as a strong self-empowered female who is not afraid to search for the truth in spite of the risks she faces. Got to love those brave females. Not the ones who go outside with a flashlight in the middle of the night, usually in a nightgown, searching for the source of mysterious noise. That's just foolish. Me, I'd stay inside with the phone and a big sharp knife. Fortunately Susan Wheeler balances the brave/foolish thing quite well.

I think I loved Coma just as much as the first time I read it. It's a nightmarish trip into the heart of our deepest fears about "going under" that doesn't dissapoint.

Read more of Friday's Forgotten books at Patti Abbott's blog: http://pattinase.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Interview With Thriller Writer Brenda Chapman

Canadian thriller/mystery writer Brenda Chapman's latest novel, The Second Wife, by Orca Publishers has just been released March 1st. Brenda is author of the Jennifer Bannon mystery series for young adults and In Winter's Grip, an adult murder mystery. Brenda is a former teacher and currently works as a senior communications advisor in Ottawa.

I'm so please to have Brenda join us today for a chat about her book:

Your latest novel, The Second Wife, was just released March 1st. How would you describe this book?

The Second Wife is a mystery, told by Gwen Lake, a forty-five year old divorced cop, who is trapped in a dead-end desk job despite her obvious intelligence. When her ex-husband is accused of murder, Gwen rallies out of her lethargy to solve the case. The book could be described as a novelette; it is part of Orca’s Rapid Reads series for adult readers with literacy problems. It’s also a quick, fun read for adults who want to finish a book in one sitting, say on a plane trip.

Tell us about your main character, Gwen Lake. What is she up against?

Gwen Lake is a character who first appeared in a short story I wrote a few years back that won a local writing contest. I’d grown fond of her feistiness and dry sense of humour and was happy for the opportunity to develop her character into a short novel.

Gwen is like a lot of middle-aged people who’ve given up on their dreams and have settled for a life well beneath their capabilities. Gwen believed that her marriage was fulfilling enough, that is, until her husband left her for another woman. At the beginning of the story, Gwen is depressed and believes that life has passed her by; she works for a chauvinistic police force and finds nightly solace in front of the television with a few glasses of wine. Yet, her life changes for the better when she decides to take on a murder investigation on her own time.

What inspires/motivates you as a writer?

I’m inspired by all the books and stories I’ve read since I was knee high to a grasshopper. I love books and good writing, and I’m thrilled to be able to add my writing and imagination to the mix. I’m also inspired by the authors I’ve met – Ottawa has a close-knit, mystery-writing community that offers support and encouragement. I’m discovering this support network of authors extends across Canada. However, perhaps the things that motivate me the most are simply the satisfaction and the excitement I get from putting words to paper.

Who and what do you like to read?

I have a degree in English literature and have read a lot of classics and poetry over the years. I am particularly fond of T.S. Eliot and the early Canadian poets, sometimes pulling out my old books to read in the evening. However, my favourite books to read are mysteries and thrillers. I’ve read a lot of British, American and Canadian authors and am constantly broadening my horizons.

It’s difficult to pick just a few authors, but recently I’ve enjoyed books by Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben, Denise Mina, Stuart Pawson, Gilles Blunt, C.B. Forrest, Tim Wynne-Jones, Mary Jane Maffini . . . I could go on and on. I’d like to add that Canadian mystery authors write some of the best books out there, bar none.

What have you got in the works now?

Dundurn will be releasing my YA novel Second Chances this fall. It is the story of fifteen-year-old Darlene Finley in the summer of 1971 when her older and more experienced cousin Elizabeth comes to stay for the summer. It’s a coming of age story set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. I’m currently writing an adult murder mystery and will likely be focussing on adult mysteries in the foreseeable future.


Brenda also has a YA novel Second Chances (Dundurn) to be released in the fall.
You can learn more about Brenda and her novels by visiting her website: http://brendachapman.ca/

Monday, March 21, 2011

Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge

Another fun flash fiction challenge brought to you by Chuck Wendig. The theme of this one is noir fiction based around babies. I think Chuck might have even invented a new genre: Baby Noir. Before I forget, let me just apologize in advance for this story to Chuck and his wife who are having a baby. But Chuck, you started this! Read more great enteries over at his blog http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2011/03/18/flash-fiction-challenge-baby-pulp/


Jesse’s Baby

At seven months pregnant, Jesse’s blue jeans were so tight we said the baby would be born with a Levi Strauss button imprint on its forehead. I asked her how she could be comfortable like that, especially riding on the back of her old man’s Harley.

“I don’t want to look fat,” she said, scowling, and took a hard suck from her cigarette. Her right eye underneath was a deep shade of purple.

“You don’t look fat, Jess, just pregnant.,” I said, gently. “They make jeans for pregnant women. They have an elastic panel in front.”

Jesse shrugged a boney shoulder. Her attention was on the cigarette she flicked ashes from in my driveway. She took another drag, blew smoke into the summer wind, and looked beyond me down the dirt road. “I’m not wearing that stupid maternity shit,” she said.

I didn’t know what else to say. She was clearly pregnant, although she didn’t look as big as she should. She appeared maybe four months along at the most. Probably because she ate nothing but Fudgesicles and beer.

I hauled the case of Budweiser from the trunk of my car and struggled to close it by balancing the case on my knee. We walked in silence into the back yard. Jesse was a quiet girl anyway. If you didn’t talk to her, she wouldn’t say a word. And then when she did open her mouth, you kind of wished she hadn’t. I always thought the reason she didn’t talk was because of her teeth. Never before had I seen a mouth on a pretty girl so crowded with crooked rotting teeth. She was barely twenty years old. But the more I got to know Jesse, the more I realized the reason she was so quiet was probably because she never had anything good to say. Maybe she knew this too.

The sun beat down hot. I looked at Jesse in her skin tight jeans and T-shirt. She’d pulled her black hair back from her pale face and tied it in a loose bun on top of her head. But she still looked sweltering in those blue jeans. Beads of sweat forming on her upper lip.

“I’ve got a pair of shorts you can borrow,” I said as we rounded the back yard to where the guys sat around the pool, soaking up the sun and the suds.

She laughed, a high pitch cackle, and said, “You’ll never get me in a pair of goddamn shorts, not with my fucking legs. No fucking way.”

We’d talked to her old man, Larry, about our concerns. Both my old man, Ayden, and I. Some of the guys in the club had made remarks, occasional cracks. Larry only laughed. It was as if he was in denial too about the baby.

In the kitchen Jesse opened the case I set on the counter and pulled out a bottle.

“I’ve got juice or ice-tea,” I said, putting the bottles in the fridge.

“I’m good.” She cracked the beer and took a long swallow.

“Has your doctor said anything to you about drinking while you’re pregnant?”

Larry opened the screen door at that moment and stepped inside, his naked beer belly leading the way. He was pink from the sun, his shaved head like the skin on a beefsteak tomato. He looked more pregnant that his woman. “It’s not the booze she needs to worry about, “ he said, “It’s all the fucking blow she does.”

“Kiss my fucking ass,” Jesse said, actually giving him a shove as she past him out the door; an effort as ineffectual as trying to push a bus.

“What happened to Jesse’s eye, Larry?” I didn’t expect a direct answer. It was bold enough for me to be asking him at all. But Larry never seemed to mind me.

“Talking when she should have been listening.” He snorted, opening the fridge and staring into it. He pulled out the t-bones, grabbed two more beers, and went back outside.

That night, when the barbecue was long over, and Ayden and I were watching TV, we got a frantic call from Larry. Something was wrong with Jesse. It was bad, he said. Ayden needed to come quick. They only lived two streets over so Ayden and I were there in minutes. The scene that greeted us in the upstairs bathroom of their house was like something out of a horror movie. Ayden actually took a step back, covering his mouth, retching.

I stood gazing, stunned at Jesse laying in an empty bathtub.

“Why the fuck did you bring her?” Larry said to my old man as I entered the bathroom. I approached her hesitantly and that’s when I noticed movement underneath a wet and bloody towel between her knees. I lifted the edge of the towel. The baby was so small but clearly alive.

“We need an ambulance. Call 911!” I screamed.

Neither Larry nor Ayden budged.

“Call 911!” I repeated.

“Fuck,” Larry said and swiped a thick hand over his face. “The cops will come. I don’t want those fuckers in my house. I got too much shit here. All my fucking guns and shit.”

“Then get rid of them. But call an ambulance,” I ordered and turned back to the baby. The umbilical cord was still attached. It’s cry was weak like a kitten’s. I couldn’t tell if it was a boy or a girl it was so covered in blood. Jessie’s eyes were open, staring. Her skin was chalky. That’s when I saw red marks around her neck.

I turned and looked back at Ayden and Larry. They stood staring at me in silence. And I knew there would be no ambulance coming.

Ayden made a motion with his head for me to get out.

When I didn’t move, he came in, took me by my arm and led me out. He told me to go watch TV in the basement while they took care of it.

“Little Levi won’t make it,” he smirked. “It’s better off.” He closed the door and left me. I did what he said. I watched a Rosanne rerun. It was an episode where Rosanne’s sister was pregnant and they were trying to think of names for the baby.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Hotel

This is my contribution to Chuck Wendig's flash fiction challenge for "The Hotel". The objective is to write a short story under 1000 words, within one week, based on the creepy picture of a hotel posted on his blog (the picture here is a different one). More information about Chuck's fiction challenge can be found here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2011/03/11/flash-fiction-challenge-the-hotel/


The Hotel

Room 3327. I knew something was wrong as soon as I stepped inside. It was in the very structure of the room. Something about it felt odd. A jagged sensation like a low volt of electricity passed through me for a brief moment. I hoisted my luggage onto the bed. I went to the window and pushed open the blinds. It had turned dark outside, ominous clouds swallowing the sun. Thirty-three floors below, yellow taxis crawled the streets like shiny beetles. I cracked open the window, let some warmth into the air-conditioned chill, the sounds of New York city, and the smell of rain.

Behind me, someone cleared his throat. I spun around to see a tall man standing in front of the bed with a gaunt pasty face. Hair the colour of ashes. He gazed at me with wet eyes like an old dog. And yet there was a smile in them.

“You might enjoy feeding the pigeons while you’re here, Miss,” he said, his voice as dry as dead leaves blowing in the wind. “There’s plenty of them in the park.”

“Thanks,” I said. I hadn’t seen him when I checked it. He hadn’t helped me with my bags. He stood there expectantly in a black suit that hung limp on his spindly body, as if waiting for a tip. Who the hell was this guy?

“Have a pleasant stay.” He bowed, actually bowed. Then he turned and left. I crossed the room, locked the door behind him.

I was tired and had an early day in the morning with numerous homeland security officials. So I had a bath, watched some TV, read for a few minutes and then turned out the lights. I fell into a deep sleep only to be woken up shortly after by a dull thumping. Was someone at the door? I turned on the lamp and stepped out of bed. I looked through the peephole. The hall was empty. I went back to bed, turned out the light. Drifting on the edge of sleep, disconnected images and thoughts flashing in my mind. Then a voice. A man’s voice. Yelling from far away it seemed.

“My papers! I can’t find my papers! They’ve stolen them!”

Was I dreaming? I heard the door slam. My door. I turned on the light and stumbled out of bed, sleep pulling at my limbs. The deadbolt was locked. There was a strange ringing in my ears. My vision narrowed. A charged feeling cut through me. I turned the lock and swung open the door. There at the end of the hallway. The man in his black suit, turning around a corner. What the hell was happening?

The next day, I spent the afternoon in meetings, fighting jetlag, a migraine and a sense of foreboding that hovered over my shoulder like a shadow. I navigated my way around unfamiliar streets and made it back to the hotel by dusk. An old woman with black eyes, magnified by cat-eye glasses, turned to gawk at me in the lobby. She sat in a chair, a wooden cane propped up next to her. The rest of the lobby seemed to be abandoned.

“Have a pleasant stay,” she said to me in a shaky voice as I passed, her words echoing across the lobby. That was the same thing the old man said to me yesterday. I thought of that voice, waking me from sleep, screaming at me.

“He check out in 1943, you know?” the old bat said.

“What? Who do you mean?” I asked, turning to her.

“The man who lived in your room,” she said, a lopsided grin stretching across her wrinkled face. Her eyes behind her glasses didn’t at look me. They looked in two different directions. I wonder how she could even see. She looked half mad. “He was here for ten years.”

“What are you talking about? What man?” I took a step toward her, studying those crazy eyes.

“He made a death ray machine.”

Now I knew she was loony tunes. She was probably some homeless crazy they let hang around once in a while out of pity. Maybe gave her the odd cup of coffee and a sandwich. She looked harmless enough.

“They stole his papers. After he died. The plans for the death ray. They were stolen.”

I felt my jaw drop open as I gazed at her, the echo of the man’s voice waking me from sleep. “My papers! I can’t find my papers! They’ve stolen them!” It was then I noticed what was in her lap. A fat gray pigeon. She was stroking it like a cat.

“There’s a plaque right on the door. Did you not look at it?”

I sighed and scanned the lobby. Where the hell was everyone? Earlier the place was crackling with life, Ethel Merman playing from the speakers above. Now it was like a morgue. The hairs on my arms prickled. I turned and hurried toward the elevators. Static electricity zapped my finger as I hit the button.

I took deep breaths as the elevator lifted me, it’s mechanisms whirring and bumping inside the walls. It made a soft ding and the doors parted on the 33rd floor. I dragged myself down the carpeted hall, thinking a hot bath might take the tension out of my muscles. I took the key from my pocket and looked at the plaque on the door of room 3327 for the first time. There was a picture of him on the plaque. A younger picture. But it was the same man. The same smile in his eyes. The man who’d yelled at me during the night about his stolen papers. Nikola Tesla.

More great stories about "The Hotel" can be found here at Chuck's blog: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2011/03/11/flash-fiction-challenge-the-hotel/

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books


Shella by Andrew Vachss
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Edition
1994

I recently discovered Andrew Vachss's noir thriller Shella and started reading it with really no expectations other than that it sounded like my kind of read. By the time I closed the book I was half way through it. I finished it in the next sit. And wow...this book is the bomb! The writing style got it's hooks into me immediately. It's lean. It's mean. It's dirty.

Shella is the story of John Smith aptly nicknamed Ghost, a depraved cast-off grown up tough in in the system, who makes his living killing people. After doing 3 years in prison for manslaughter, he gets out and begins searching for his dancer girlfriend Shella, who sometimes works as a dominatrix and runs a scam ripping off tricks. Ghost's single objective is to find Shella and be reunited with the only person in the world he feels any emotion for. It becomes his obsession. Everything else in his life doesn't matter. He has no family, no friends, no dreams, desires, or needs, other than Shella. And he's willing to travel down some pretty dark roads and eliminate anyone he has to in order to get to her. Shella is a deliciously grim and tragic love story between two equally damaged souls written in the style of the best classic noirs.

Originally published in 1994, it has since been rereleased with several different covers. It also looks like it's set for release on audio book later this year. If you get the chance pick it up. Highly recommended.

For more Friday's Forgotten Books, visit Patti Abbott here: http://pattinase.blogspot.com/http://pattinase.blogspot.com/

Monday, March 7, 2011

Thriller Writer Joan Hall Hovey


I'm am so excited to have fellow Canadian thriller writer, Joan Hall Hovey, from St. John New Brunswick, as a guest blogger. Joan's latest novel, Night Corridor, has just been released February of this year and it promises to be quite the thrill ride. I love the premise of this novel; a woman released from a psychiatric hospital who's being stalked by a killer. The idea of that just gives me chills.

Here is a brief synopsis of Night Corridor: At 17, Caroline Hill lost the love of her life. Then she lost her child. And finally, her grasp on reality. Now, after nine years, Caroline is being released from Bayshore mental institution, once called The Lunatic Asylum. There will be no one to meet her. Her parents who brought her here...are dead. They have found her a room in a rooming house, a job washing dishes in a restaurant. She will do fine, they said. But no one told her that women in St. Simeon are already dying at the hands of a vicious predator. One, an actress who lived previously in her building. Others. And now, as Caroline struggles to survive on the outside, she realizes someone is stalking her.But who will believe her? She's a crazy woman after all. Then, one cold winter's night on her way home from her job, a man follows and is about to assault her when a stranger intercedes. A stranger who hides his face and whispers her name.

Night Corridor an excerpt:

October 1973

He noticed her as soon as he walked into the bar. She was sitting with another girl, a blond; pretty, he supposed, but his attention was riveted on the dark-haired one. He ordered a beer and took a table in the far corner where he had a good view, while he himself was safe from watchful eyes. She had satiny hair to her shoulders, high cheekbones, was slender in a silk print top, black slacks, like a woman on the cover of a magazine. She was laughing at something the blond said, flashing perfect white teeth and his heart tripped. She's the one, the voice told him. Excitement surged through him as he recast her in the movie that for years now, replayed endlessly on the screen of his mind.
When the two women rose to leave, he left his unfinished beer on the table and casually, so as not to draw attention to himself, followed them outside. She had put on a jacket and it shone bright white in the lights from the parking lot.
After chatting briefly, the two girls gave each other a quick hug, then parted and went to their respective cars, parked a good distance from one another. There was a rightness to it. They might just as easily have come in one car, or parked closer to one another. But they did not. The stars were finally lining up in his favor.
He came up behind her as she was fitting the key in the lock of the red Corvair. "I'm Buddy," he said softly, so as not to frighten her. Despite his best intention, she whirled around, eyes wide. "Jesus, you scared the shit out of me. What do you want?"
He felt the smile on his face falter. A mask, crumbling. "I just want to talk to you."
"Fuck off, okay? I'm not interested."
With those words, her beauty vanished, as if he'd imagined it. Her mouth was twisted and ugly. Disappointment weighed heavy on him. Anger boiled up from his depths.
"That was wrong of you to say that to me," he said, still speaking quietly.
Belying the softness of his voice, she saw something in his eyes then and he saw that she did, and when she opened her mouth to scream, he stuck her full in the face with his fist.
She slid down the side of the car as if boneless. He caught her before she hit the ground, then dragged her around to the other side of the car, blocking her with his own body in case someone saw them. Not that he was too concerned. If anyone did see them they would just figure she was his girlfriend and that she'd had one too many. But there was no one in the lot. Even her friend had already driven off.
He lowered her limp form to the ground while he hurried round to the driver's side and got the key out of the door. He put on his gloves, and opened the passenger door. After propping her up in the seat, he went back around and slid into the driver's side. Then he turned on the ignition and the car hummed to life.
Shifting the car into reverse, he backed out of the parking spot. He gave the wheel a hard turn and she fell against him, her hair brushing his face and filling his senses with her shampoo, something with a hint of raspberry. He pushed her off him and her head thunked against the passenger window. A soft moan escaped her, but she didn't wake.
He drove several miles out of the city, then turned left onto a rutted dirt road and stayed on it for a good ten minutes. Spotting a clearing leading into the woods, an old logging road no longer used, he eased the car in, bumping over dips and tangled roots. He went in just far enough not to be seen from the road on the off-chance someone drove by, but also taking care he wouldn't get stuck in here. The headlights picked out the white trunks of spruce trees, spot-lighting the leaves that seconds later receded into blackness, as if this were merely a stage set.
Beside him, the woman moaned again then whimpered, her hand moving to her face where he had struck her. Blood trickled darkly down one corner of her mouth and her eyes fluttered open. He knew the instant she sensed him there beside her, like the bogeyman in a nightmare.
Except she was awake now. When she turned to look at him he felt her stiffen, could see in her eyes that she knew she was in big trouble. He almost felt sorry for her. Almost.
"Who are you?" she croaked, more blood leaking from the corner of her mouth, eyes wet with tears.
"What does it matter?"
"Please…please don't hurt me. I'm—I'm sorry for what I said to you. I shouldn't have. If you want to… I mean, it's okay. You don't have to hurt…"
His fury was like lava from a volcano and his hand shot out, the back of it shutting off her words in mid-sentence. "Shut up, whore."
She was crying hard now, heavy, hiccupy sobs, helpless, terrified. But her tears meant nothing to him. She was right to be afraid. He slid the knife from its sheath that hung on his belt and let her see it.
"Oh, God, no please…" She was choking on her tears, wriggling away from him, trapped, like a butterfly on the head of a pin. He smiled when she reached for the door handle on her side, and then drove the knife into her upper arm. She screamed and he wound his fingers into her hair. "Be quiet," he said, while she held her arm with her other hand and wept like a child.
As he had wept. As he wept still.
"You can't get away," he said. "There's no place to go."


Not only is Joan Hall Hovey an award winning novelist whose book, Chill Waters, claimed the coveted Bloody Dagger Award, Joan is also an accomplished stage actress and in addition, does voice-overs for commercial, narration, audio books, and on-hold and audio messaging, as well as offering writing instruction. For more information on Joan and her novels, visit her website here: www.joanhallhovey.com

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dark Valentine


The Spring Issue of Dark Valentine Magazine is now available for download: http://darkvalentine.net/index.php/2011/03/rites-of-spring/

New fiction by some great authors: Kristen Davis, Tonia Brown, Matthew C . Funke, Mike Chinn, Berkeley Hunt, Paul D . Brazill, Trost, Alejandro Omidsalar, Sarah Vaughn, Jeannine Dotts, John M . Radosta, Katherine Tomlinson, Caitlin Hoffman, Allan Leverone, James Valdis.

Well? What are you still doing here? Go on, my twisted little thriller fanatics, go read it now!