Be in at the Beginning . . . Sign up for Updates!
A Sneak Peak!
Under a Blood Red Moon
She found the second body at sunset.
Glittering in the bruised light of the waning sun, specks of green glass caught her eye. She stepped off the narrow sand rut and into the sea grasses clumped along the path she’d made in her daily walks. Stalks brushed against her bare thighs, tangled in the fabric of her threadbare shorts.
Dancing With the Devil
“You’re late today.” Sweeping his arm to the side, he invited in Death.
Near the wall of his cell, shadows stirred. With a sideways whip, a ropey body emerged from shadows and sand.
The spiked head of the snake slid forward, tongue flicking toward him.
The biggest shopping day of the year was a killer, all right.
Sophie sidestepped a trail of plastic syringe tips.
Torn plastic wraps from hastily opened four by four gauze drifted in her wake. One step away from a full trot, she jammed her hands into the pockets of her medical jacket and grimaced at a blood trail dotting the black and white tiled floor. Third time that night.
Overserved with turkey both fowl and Wild, two good ol’ boys had duked it out in the Emergency Room hall earlier. Then they’d thrown up on her socks. “Damned shame waste of good likker,” one had said morosely. Boozily consoling each other, they’d left in the firm grip of one of Poinciana’s knights in blue.
Following the blood trail, she automatically checked out the ER. All five treatment rooms were filled, the waiting room out front was packed to the corners with sniffling, bleeding people, and they all wanted her attention.
Five minutes ago.
Behind her, a bucket clanked against the floor and water slopped against her, trickled inside her lace-trimmed green socks. She swore under her breath and stopped, the bells on her shoe laces jingling.
"Sorry, doc. Damned thing slipped." Billy Ray Watley’s stringy pony-tail swung with his quick grab for the cart. A yellow Caution Wet Floor sign smacked against the wall and tumbled to the wet floor. On the other side, the sign warned Cuidado/Piso Mijado. He shot her a worried grin.
“No problem, Billy Ray. Don’t sweat it.”
“Your Christmas socks are ruined.” He jiggled the cart, his pony tail a pendulum to his jitters.
“Not really.” Even with soapy water squishing between her toes, she smiled. An effort after fourteen hours on duty, but Billy Ray was one of their own.
She reached down and plucked at one soggy sock. The bells clinked flatly. At six this morning, filled with energy and cold pumpkin pie, she’d pulled on orange socks. With turkeys prancing around the cuffs.
By four in the afternoon, the turkeys had yielded to plain white. She’d meant to save the jingles until midnight. No sense rushing the season, but she’d run out of her white socks. It was going to be a five-sock-change day before she could get out of here, thanks to Billy Ray, the barfing good old boys, and the teenager from the motorcycle accident.
Dumb kid. No helmet. No sense. She straightened and felt the pop and crackle of every vertebra in her back.
And then there was the woman beating victim. A stranger, but a connection.... Sophie didn’t want her to die.
And knew she would.
In a cold, driving rain at two in the morning, they found the baby lying in the manger of the Second Baptist Church, directly across the street from Beth Israel, the only synagogue in the tri-county area.
“What the hell,” Finnigan muttered as rain spat into his eyes and seeped down the neck of his yellow slicker.
“Lord have mercy.” Tyree Jones squatted and reached under the rough wood roof of the manger. His broad dark hand touched the cradle, hesitated. Rain dripped from the edges of the straw spilling over the edges of the cradle. “Shoot, man, it’s a baby, that’s what.”
The spotlight in the shelter shone down on the baby. Chocolate brown eyes stared back at them.
“I can see it’s a baby, Tyree. The punk knifed my shoulder. Not my eyes. What’s a baby doing here?”
“All right, I’ll play.” Tyree’s forefinger brushed against the baby’s cheek. “What?”
“Damn it to hell, Tyree. Get the kid out of there. It’s got to be freezing.” Finnigan rolled his shoulders, easing the ache of the stitches, and stooped down beside Tyree.
“She’s not an it, Judah. She’s an itty-bitty baby girl, that’s what she is.” Tyree said as Finnigan bent over him and scooped her up with one hand, tucking the pink Winnie-the-Pooh sheet around her. “What a pretty girl you are, too, honey,” Tyree cooed. “Now why’d somebody go off and leave you here all by your lonesome, huh?” Tyree poked his face close to the silent baby.
Lover in the Shadows
The third time Molly woke up on her kitchen floor with the knife in her hand, she was too frightened to utter a sound
This time the knife was spotted with blood. Dried, matter dark, it flecked the handled and clotted in the space where shining metal, wiped clean, met a wooden handle.
For a long time she lay with her cheek on the cold tiles and stared at the thing clutched in her white-knuckled fingers. Shadowy in the predawn, the slick black-and-white tile floor had become the color of smoke. Peaceful, this gray, in the silence. The tile felt cool against her cheek. Without turning her head, she let her gaze drift.
It would be so easy to lie here, curled up and lost in that gray blur.
So easy if she didn't have to look at the knife wavering in her clenched fist.
Moving closer, he watched her lean back in the chair, pale brown hair clinging to the chair fabric, her hands tangled in the black silk of the cat's fur. Saw, too, the lines around her drawn, silvery gray eyes, the smudges of exhaustion underneath. He sensed the immense effort she was making as her small hands moved in an endless, hypnotic rhythm.
She might drowse now. Possibly. Or not.
He could wait.
But he knew she wouldn't sleep.
June 30th, Palmaflora
He'd been watching her for five days. Until today, she'd always been alone. But today she had the kid with her. That was what he'd been waiting for.
Bitch of a job.
Sighing, Royal hoisted the brown bag-enclosed bottle to his mouth and settled back on the hot sand. Letting his gaze drift, he let the burn of cheap whiskey slide down his throat. He could have bought a more expensive brand. He hadn't. He'd wanted the burn, the bite. Pain was real.
Settling the bottle back into the sand against his hip, he looked out across the glass-slick Gulf of Mexico. If he squinted, he could see a sailboat far out in the Gulf, its sails glowing dark red in the setting sun. His chin itched and he scratched it, flaking sand and salt crystals into his lap. Somberly, he contemplated the sand caked on his wet jeans, the smear of grease down one pants leg.
How the mighty had fallen.
Smudging the grease stain, he glanced back towards the woman. A sliver of long, pale legs and silvery bathing suit gleaming in the sunset, she was moving aimlessly up by the pavilion in the distance, the kid tagging along beside her, darting away. A large, floppy straw hat with its crown wrapped in a purple and pink ribbon hid her face. Every now and then she turned her head casually in the child's direction, keeping him in sight, the frivolous brim sagging and drooping with her every movement.
Royal was surprised. He'd expected her to keep the boy glued to her. Her guard was down. No hurry. He had all the time in the world. The idea amused him at some basic, self-mocking level. He could see the humor in what he'd become.
A man with no place to go. No place to be.
It was the sudden silence that made her look up.
Struck by the stillness, Josie paused. Pebbles of dirt spattered from her trowel to the ground as she raised her chin. Dust spiraled up, gritty against her mouth.
She tilted her head, listening.
And heard nothing.
Her fingers tightened against the leaf of the tomato seedling. Uneasy, she rested her trowel on the ground.
All morning she'd been distantly aware of the occasional trill of a mockingbird or the squawks of a blue jay in the pines at the edge of her property, the bird noise a numbing background sound in the July heat.
But now, this silence.
Abrupt and absolute.
Only the stifling darkness of the woods in front of her. Darkness and stillness and the heavy drumming of her pulse in her ears.
Over the pungent scent of the bruised leaf in her hand came a musky scent mixing with the smell of dry soil.
Heat pressed in on her, trickled down her spine.
Something there, just at the edge of her vision. A shape, a form, unmoving in the shadows of the woods at the end of her property.
She blinked, clearing the haze of perspiration from her eyes. Shades of darkness slid into focus, and her heart stuttered and skipped a beat as she saw him.