Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Tuesday Meme

I had this simple thought today and I decided to turn it into a meme....

Monday, December 1, 2014

Help an Indie!

An aspiring and talented actress named Adra Janean is competing for an extraordinary chance to meet legendary Casting Director Lindsay Chag and gain career boosting exposure. With our help, she has a great shot at achieving this.

She performed a #HolidayJournalEntry monologue written by author D. R. Acula for and did an awesome job.

Your view count will help her video rise in TentSquare ranks, securing her spot in the top 10 performances. Any help, such as viewing or sharing the video, would be very helpful. Then on December 13th, members of TentSquare will be able to vote on their favorite performance every 24 hours, and the winner will get a chance of a lifetime:

$200 cash, consultation with Lindsay Chag, two actor badges for the TentSquare Fest™ where the monologue performance will be played or performed live if actor chooses, entry to TentSquare Awards™ in NYC 2016.

See Adra's video performance here:

Adra Janean's Twitter Handle:

Adra Janean's IMDB:

D. R. Acula's Twitter Handle:


Monday, November 24, 2014

Free Book Alert!

For anyone as long as you’re not ginger.

For one week only,  British Author Louise Wise is dropping the price of her romcom, A Proper Charlie to 99c or 77p.  The book sums up what the genre is all about: relationships, fun, and ‘finding yourself’.

Charlie (Charlotte) Wallis is ditzy but her heart is the right place, it’s just a shame her brain isn’t. Without a family, she was brought up in a children’s home and subsequently craves to fall in love and be loved herself. She clings to people who aren’t right for her, and makes awful mistakes. She’s probably the best friend you want to shake!

Charlie becomes heart-broken when her boyfriend dumps her, but then feels attracted to her boss, Ben. And it's mutual! Only he becomes man wanted for murder.

Is her life destined to meet bad men? Or is Ben as innocent as he claims?

Charlie, for once in her life, begins using her brain. But as aforementioned, she’s ditzy.

For more from Louise Wise contact her on Twitter @louise_wise (she follows back!) or her blog

Paperback: (not included in any half-price/free deal).
Apple iStore:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Love's True Second Chance by Jeff Dawson

Love's True Second Chance

Would you take a second chance at love with an old flame? Would you be able to forgive and forget, or would the old feelings of hurt and betrayal surface? In 2009 I would put those questions and feelings to the test. For almost thirty years I’d wondered what path her life had traveled. Was she married? Was she happy? Did she ever think of us? A phone call in December 2008 would open the floodgates of the past. But there was one thing I couldn’t prepare myself for: cancer.
Join Debbie and me for the love of a lifetime. From the halls of high school, to meetings in college best forgotten and finally, a chance to correct the mistakes of the past and enjoy the love we were meant to share.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Winter of Zombie Blog Tour: John O'Brien

Can It Really Happen?

John O’Brien

A fan asked wrote and asked me that one day.  And I am starting to get those again seeing our current news.  First of all, I am not expert by any stretch.  There are much more knowledgeable folks out there than I.  My first thought was, no, it’s not going to happen and especially not that way.  That of course started a chain reaction of thoughts, yes, it does happen occasionally.  Sometimes, the three brain cells left inside will, every so often, bump in each other and give birth to a thought.  Now that thought will be a random one and there is not telling what may happen.  I could override the senses and filters and blurt out something inane – the highest of odds – or it could decide I suddenly needed to drool in public.  It’s all a crap shoot.

But I digress – another odds on favorite.

Viruses do mutate, some quickly and others over time…but they all mutate.  Just look at the tough and resistant viruses emerging today.  They adapt and overcome – see, I knew viruses and Marines had something in common.  So, I need to stop here and point to above blurting out in public and filters.  I have a deep, abiding respect for Marines so don’t think I am bad-mouthing them or think they are viruses.  It’s just that viruses are Marine tough.  There, that’s a better way of saying it.  The other aspect is the brain is a wired object, meaning, rewire it and it changes.  It all works as a single entity and so block something and it changes what it was.  Too high of a fever, parts of the brain is burned.  Viruses invading and taking over certain parts of the brain, there’s now a different person bases on the viral makeup and what they take over.

There also has to be a survival aspect to viruses or they wouldn’t mutate to survive.  Yes, I know it’s through ones that survive and have a partial immunity but the viruses adapt and change.  They can even adapt and change to treatments on the fly.  That’s survival.  With survival, wouldn’t there be a propagation aspect?  So, there are a few ingredients.  They won’t technically be zombies but they will seek food and need to propagate to survive.  How fast they are and do what degree they can think will be determined by what parts of the brain are affected.

Far-fetched.  Probably.  Government super soldier, tough yet obedient, fearless, numb in the brain so they’ll take any order – not too far-fetched.  Lots of homeless around.  A trial version escaping – not too far-fetched.  And no, you can’t have my idea.  It might, just might mind you, become as aspect of another series.  Just sayin’.  

Okay, so it is a little far out there and the apocalypse will most likely come in some sort of financial collapse with resulting anarchy which will be sweet because I can now shoot the asshole who decides it’s not only the right thing to do to drive in the fast lane of the freeway at a brisk 45, but it’s their God-given right to do so.  And then when a lane does open up, on the right mind you, they speed up, and speed up until you’re doing 95 down the freeway next to them.  Another line of cars and suddenly they’re at 45 again.  Yeah, I know who you are buddy and it’s just a matter of time.  It could be a super virus as well but change is in the air and if you’re prepared for a zombie apocalypse, you’re prepared for anything.

*   *   *   *   *

The stench of frozen rotted meat is in the air! Welcome to the Winter of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, with 10 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of November. 

Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don't miss an interview, guest post or teaser… and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them! #WinterZombie2014

AND so you don't miss any of the posts in November, here's the complete list, updated daily: 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Release Day Meme!

Mobsters, Monsters & Nazis

Today is the day!

Have a Happy Halloween and grab Mobsters. Monsters & Nazis for only $2.99 on Kindle. 


"These days I can honestly say I never know where author Dan O'Brien is going to take readers. Over the books I have read he has transported readers into the lives of characters that definitely stick to you, pushing forward from chapter to chapter, unable to stop until the very end––and even then you don't seem to be able to get enough. That's author Dan O'Brien for you: he draws you in, gives you just enough to hook you, and then shows who really has the power by leaving you anxiously awaiting what he has in store for us next. If MOBSTERS, MONSTERS & NAZIS is any indication, this series will be another project in the win column for this talented storyteller.” ––Cyrus Webb, host of Conversations LIVE radio show 

Author Dan O'Brien has teamed up with artist Steve Ferchaud for a one-of-a-kind reading experience that will span six short books. Blending noir, hardboiled detective stories, and pulp comics, "Mobsters, Monsters & Nazis" follows private investigator Derrick Diamond as he searches for an elusive object: a strange device that the Nazis need for their nefarious experiments. Aided by Ava Harpy, a lounge singer at the Yellow Monarch, they dive deep into the underbelly of the city, uncovering a sordid plot that is much larger than they could have possibly imagined. 

Now, it might not be a "time travel highlander romance," but it is the first in a series of kindle ebooks that might will surprise you at every turn. I can promise it's a modern pulp story with the usual suspects of pulp heroes and villains. It also manages to satisfy all those readers who enjoy a little cthulhu mythos in the mix. 

If you love illustrated works, pulp comics, and a little bit of Lovecraft in your stories, then what are you waiting for?


“This is one of the best introductions to a book that I have ever read, you are saddened when it ends and are hooked into wanting to know what happens next. Fans of the movies starring Humphrey Bogart will spot many references to his classics. A story in this genre is difficult to execute, but this is convincing evidence that O’Brien has done it.” – Charles Ashbacher 

"This is a fun and original story with fabulous illustrations and the potential to be a thrilling adventure. The world O’Brien has created––blending otherworldly creatures with very familiar noir-style tropes––is deliciously creepy and undeniably interesting. This one is definitely worth picking up.” ––Kathy Cunningham 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Inside Look: Bitten Day 7

A predator stalks a cold northern Minnesotan town. There is talk of wolves walking on two legs and attacking people in the deep woods. Lauren Westlake, resourceful and determined F.B.I Agent, has found a connection between the strange murders in the north and a case file almost a hundred years old. Traveling to the cold north, she begins an investigation that spirals deep into the darkness of mythology and nightmares. Filled with creatures of the night and an ancient romance, the revelation of who hunts beneath the moon is more grisly than anyone could have imagined.

A trailer for Bitten:


Here be an excerpt for your enjoyment:

Chapter VII

Lauren Westlake had not been this nervous about a date since she had been a teenager. To be completely fair, it had been some time since a man took interest in her, especially a man who had not been recently serving time or one who liked the idea of a forthcoming, commandeering woman. She felt a twist in her stomach that was akin to those first few moments right as intoxication took over. 

It was a pleasant, but unsettled feeling.

The case file for Evelyn Marshall was spread out over the bed. There was a page here, a photograph there. She reached up with one hand to readjust the towel turban she had created to dry her hair. The small shirt she wore revealed her lithe body, though the muted print on the front was long since faded. Her slender fingers picked up a glossy picture of what Evelyn Marshall had looked like only days before. 

Tall and statuesque, she had a sense of sadness behind the heavy strokes of mascara around her eyes. The shimmering dress she wore was a kind of mauve. Clearly the picture had been taken in late spring or even summer, for the sun was shining, casting glimmering rings across distant windows. 

A man helped her from a long black car. 

She pushed through the papers, idly rearranging them as if they possessed no clear order. With a slick sound, she pulled free another glossy picture, this one smaller than the rest. “Evan Marshall,” she mused, touching one of her unpainted fingers to her thin, pale lips. 

The picture was not flattering.

There was a quality of irritation that oozed from his grim line of a smile. Dark circles enshrouded cold brown eyes that looked at the camera with indifference. A wide black coat hid his features, but the heaviness of his face was enough of an indicator for Lauren. There was something Orwellian about him, massive and powerful, but somber.

With a sigh, she pushed away the photograph and picked up the typewritten file once more. Clicking her fingers against another picture just below her hand, her eyes drifted to the bedside clock. The red lines of the digital clock revealed her procrastination: 7:30. 

A half of an hour more and Dominic would be knocking on the door. Her chest was suddenly tight. With an uneven, spastic movement, she was off the bed and the file in her hand cast onto the ruffled blankets and comforter of the hotel bed set. 

Lipstick was smeared with broad strokes of a red hue. Eyeliner skillfully applied while dressing. It was a tornado of movement and application. Getting ready for a date required a strange kind of theater act. 

The knock at the door, though expected, was sooner than she had anticipated. Pulling a warm, yet tasteful sweater jacket around her shoulders, she grasped the door handle. 

The outside air was chilly.

Winter’s bite was a piercing one. 

Her body warmed as she saw Dominic. His hair was wild, blown from the frigid gales. Yet the haphazard manner in which it was situated was perfect. His blue eyes were intense. The darkness of the cold night made them appear more vibrant than when they had first met. As he opened his mouth to speak, the perfect line of his white teeth made her smile. 

“You look wonderful, Lauren.” 

His voice was smooth and confident. 

She fidgeted with the door key in her hand. “Ah, thanks. Do I need to bring a warmer jacket? Do you think I might need it?”

He smiled again. 

“It is quite cold, Agent Westlake. I imagine an additional coat would not be a bad idea, though we will not be gallivanting through the woods tonight.” He paused, his self-reflection making his eyes glow. “At least I hope not.”

For a moment, she considered bringing her weapon. It passed as she grabbed a heavy coat, imitation fur lining along the inside and around the neck. She pulled the door closed and locked it with a resounding click. Dominic held the coat for her, allowing her lithe figure to move inside it, seeking the warmth and protection. 

He held out an arm, gesturing toward a dark sedan. 

“Shall we?”


The room was quite dark and were there a casual observer it would have seemed quite odd. The computer screen provided the only light in the room. Drawn shades hid the partial moon that slid through lidless clouds in the night. Large headphones that enveloped his obscenely large head thumped rhythmically. 

His eyes watched the screen with a strange intensity. 

The door to his room was closed, the rust-colored handle locked as he reached his hands down into his pants. There was something perversely fascinating about the way he listened to Vivaldi and pornography of the most graphic nature as one intermingled symphony of sound and myriad imagery. 

His placid face was accented by wide, cow eyes with near transparent irises. Bushy blonde hair, a testament to his Nordic heritage, violently expelled from around the firm grasp of the headphones. 

His face twisted as he watched the perverse play of coordinated sexual movements and glistening bodies, artificially created and produced to enhance the experience. The chair rocked slightly as he shifted position, a strained looking coming to his face as he felt the clear rush of climax. 

He raised an eyebrow as he removed his hand and then the obligatory moment of uncertainty that followed the self-flagellation to elation. The room was silent except the strange cacophony that erupted in his mind. As he unplugged the headphones, the sounds from his computer filled the room. 

Absurd moaning and telegraphed dialogue were combined with precise symphonic rhythm, creating an aural nightmare. The windows were lined with frost. Cold seemed to crawl along the walls, dampening the world. He stood, wiping his hand against his leg. And then again for good measure, he made sure to blend the color of his pajamas, dark black with white writing. 

His feet were bare: hobbit feet. 

Moving across the wooden floor without a sprite’s dexterity, he opened and unlocked his bedroom door with one quick movement. He lowered his head as he darted into the hall. Had he been looking up, he would have seen the slinking, crawling shadow with death on its breath at the end of the hall leading to the back porch. 

As it was, he did not. 

Closing the door behind him, he flicked on the light. 

The partial shadow of something grotesque moved silently across the wooden floors without sound, watching him. And again, had he been more observant, he would have seen the cold eyes and strange, uneven mane of something awkward watching through the sliver of the door to the bathroom: something wicked. 

A torn towel hung off the back of the door. 

He turned on the faucet, hot water erupting in spurts and fits from the aged pipes of the cold apartment complex. He wrung his hands, washing them beneath the scalding water. Steam rose in little curls, fogging up the oval-shaped antiquity that served as a mirror in this closet masquerading as a bathroom. 

The city of Locke did not have much in the way of community housing. Small, squat buildings weathered and frigid like human freezers lined a narrow street just north of the railroad tracks. The small apartment occupied by the lonely young man was one such sparse residential arrangement. 

He splashed his face, reaching for the beaten towel. Rubbing his face hard, he let it fall to the sink. Looking around his miniscule accommodations, he sighed. There was something defeatist about living so far north. 

You had to be content with the minor victories: working plumbing, a warm room with four walls. Necessity was paramount, want often falling to the wayside. Opening the door to the bathroom, the artificial light spilled into the narrow hallway. 

He looked to his bedroom, the door half-open. 

Feeling thirsty, he turned down the hallway toward the diminutive living room that was inhabited by a small couch with an orange comforter. There was an ancient television set, yellow blinking lights of the satellite receiver hidden beneath it in an avalanche of video games, movies, and various clothing. 

The kitchen floor was cold linoleum. His bare feet bristled with gooseflesh and he made a face that indicated so. The dull light of the refrigerator cast shadows across the vacant cupboards and overflowing trash can. 

He did not see the shadow approach. 

The breathing caught his attention. He paused, his body partially illuminated by the refrigerator light. Licking his lips, he turned slowly. His breath caught in his throat. 

“What the fuck,” he whispered. 

The creature moved toward him slowly, chest heaving. The slash dislodged his intestines. He tried to catch them as they fell. There was blood, so much blood. His hands fell aside as the shadow climbed atop him, ravenous claws tearing flesh. 


Lauren laughed. 

She was more prone to smirking than the wide-mouthed laugh she was utilizing currently. Had it not been, of course, for a rather potent bottle of Pinot Noir that so succinctly ravished her palate. Jabbing her fork into an ample portion of fish in a manner that would not be considered womanly in any society, she attempted to engage in her wittiest of banter. 

“So a federal agent? A fearsome title for such a beautiful woman.”

Lauren paused, glancing over her food with wide eyes. Beautiful: the compliment often elicited butterflies in women of all ages. She cleared her throat, brushing back her hair. “That is quite the sentiment. Being a federal agent keeps me from being harassed by the less than reputable.”

Dominic shifted, touching the glass of water. He did not drink the wine. She would surely not begrudge someone for having discipline. “So what does Agent Lauren Westlake like? What does she enjoy?”

She smiled coyly. 

“I like this. I like being here.”

Dominic smiled. 

It was in such a way that he knew, but did not judge. 

He understood. 

“I am pleased that you are enjoying yourself. Do you enjoy dancing?” The approach of the house band was subtle; violins humming softly. He stood and crossed to her side of the table, extending his hand. “Would you care to dance?”

She blushed, accepting his hand and standing with him. The restaurant was mostly empty. There were other patrons, older couples who smiled in reflection of their lives, of moments very similar to this one. 

They danced slowly, his hand on her lower back. 

She hugged against his strong back, feeling the powerful muscles and crevices where his muscles gave way to bone. After a time, she laid her head against his shoulder, closing her eyes. She thought of something she had not for some time: happiness. 

Too long had her life been the job; in mere moments, he had broken down that defense. She felt safe and cared for in his arms. They moved across the floor. The veneer wood beneath their feet clicked and creaked with their every movement. Some people had gathered, cooks from the kitchen, wait staff in the back. 

Together, they were a portrait of bliss.

A slight rumble became an intrusion; her phone vibrated inside her coat. She did not hear it at first, her thoughts lost in the powerful arms of Dominic. As they turned, he led her up the open area that was serving so well as a dance floor, twirling her and bringing her close once more. Her eyes looked out into the clear night, the moon hanging ominously in the distance. 

The rumble came again, moving her coat. Her eyes caught the movement and she stared as Dominic moved her around the floor, finding great peace and rhythm. Her intense look grew, her mind retreating from the joy she had felt so briefly. 

And then she saw the movement clearly, unmistakably. With a sad smile, she looked up at Dominic. “I think my phone is vibrating,” she spoke. 

He looked deeper into her eyes. 

His blue eyes were oceans of depth and consideration. Something quite old deep dwelled within those eyes, a history much older than the stunning man who stood before her. “I understand,” he replied and then stepped away, holding onto her hand. 

He raised it slowly, holding her eyes and kissed the top of her hand lightly. She smiled, her shoulders lifting. He turned over her hand and kissed her palm, this time lowering his head and closing his eyes. Gooseflesh traced her body, the entire right side of her body experiencing a chill. Her smile had shrunk, though not from lack of joy. It took everything she had to not giggle goofily, to not blush and fawn as a teenager in love. It took a great deal of control to move away from him then. 

But, she did so. 

Lifting up her coat, she pulled free her phone and frowned. There were several calls from the sheriff’s department. Scrolling down, she saw another from the sheriff’s cell number. With a sigh, she put the phone to her ear and rung her voicemail. 

The news did not improve. 

The sheriff was speaking in hurried tones and despite Dominic’s electric smile, her brow furrowed. By the time she had replaced her phone back into the pocket of her coat, she was positively fearsome.

“There has been another murder.”

Dominic’s face mirrored her seriousness. 

“I am sorry, Lauren. Where shall I take you?”

Time felt as if it ebbed with his words. She had forgotten her weapon, leaving it because she felt it would not be a necessary evil on this night. That had proven incorrect. “We will have to cut the evening short. I fear that I will be held up for a while at the scene.” 

Dominic paused, a pregnant one in which he seemed to evaluate her claim carefully. “Would it be inappropriate if I accompanied you to the scene?”

She looked at him with wide brown eyes. 

Again, he surprised her. 

There was something powerful about the manner with which he conducted himself. The restaurant chattered on. Other patrons ignored their exchange, the elegance of their movements having faded back into the white noise of the world. 

She grabbed her coat and put it on. 

“I am not sure that it would be the best idea.”

He moved in closer, taking advantage of the height difference to surround her. “I will not be in your way, Lauren. I would simply be a glorified chauffeur. It would not be an inconvenience for me.”

She considered his words. 

The night had only begun and her plans far exceeded where they had found themselves. The restaurant, though inhabited with souls, felt empty except for Dominic and her. His cerulean eyes watched her with an old look, a wisdom that wandered far beyond his near perfect body. A body she wished to explore more of. She blushed at the thought and his perfect smile returned. 

“I do not imagine that Sheriff Montgomery will be too encumbered by my presence. It might amuse him somewhat. He seems intrigued by you, as I imagine a great many men are.”

Lauren had never felt so giggly and light as she did in his presence. For her life, she had always avoided those flowery feelings of placing men’s needs and wants ahead of hers. Dominic erased that, but she knew that he would never allow her to believe such a thing. She cursed herself for finding such a man during dark times. 

He stepped closer, taking her hands in his. 

“I am intrigued by you. You enchant me.”

Her legs felt weak, a feeling that made her resolve steel. Walking that tightrope of maintaining her reason and allowing her feelings to run away with her, she smiled. “You don’t strike me as the squeamish type, though I should warn you that these crime scenes can be quite gruesome.”

His smile faded to a tight smirk. “I will take that as your acquiescence. And if it alleviates your concerns, I am not in the slightest squeamish, as you say.”

She allowed him to put her coat over her shoulders. Looking at him, she spoke in a low tone. “I should at least stop by and get my gun.”

There were others things she would have liked to say. But it would have to wait. She had a feeling in her stomach that whatever she believed was haunting Locke had reared its tumultuous head again. She took his arm as they exited the restaurant out into the cold night.

Grab Bitten on Kindle Unlimited!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Inside Look: Bitten Day 6

A predator stalks a cold northern Minnesotan town. There is talk of wolves walking on two legs and attacking people in the deep woods. Lauren Westlake, resourceful and determined F.B.I Agent, has found a connection between the strange murders in the north and a case file almost a hundred years old. Traveling to the cold north, she begins an investigation that spirals deep into the darkness of mythology and nightmares. Filled with creatures of the night and an ancient romance, the revelation of who hunts beneath the moon is more grisly than anyone could have imagined.

A few questions for the author:

Are you fun to go on vacation with? 

Not in the slightest. I like to go on vacations by myself. My wife puts up with it, even when I am stickler about what time we leave and packing. Usually after the first day I relax and I can enjoy myself. The exception is San Francisco. That city brings out the very best in me. Most people that have seen me there say I am a different person. 

How do you feel about being interviewed? 

I have grown to love it, especially radio interviews. 

Why do you think what you do matters? 

I am not sure it does. I think story-telling and critical thinking matter, and they can both be achieved through the act of reading. So I guess, in some small way, I contribute to that. 

Have you ever found true love? 

Yes, and we have been together for 12 years. Though true love comes in many forms. Writing is a true love. Thinking is a true love. I often find that people mean romantic love, of which I have found the perfect person, but there are plenty of other domains in which you can have true love. 

Here be an excerpt for your enjoyment:

Chapter VI

The man sat in the empty room. His hands were handcuffed to the table through a thick silver ring. The sheriff had pushed back his hood revealing a man in complete disarray. Wild hair, unkempt and looking as if it had been involved in a hurricane, framed haunting gray eyes and a twisted nose. 

Lauren sat in the chair across from him. 

The sheriff stood against the wall. 

Wool cap removed, his hair was wild as well. There was a manila folder; it was a bluff really, as it only contained his booking papers. 

“So we are booking you as John Doe because you cannot remember your name? Is that how you would like to proceed?” The aptly named John Doe simply stared at Lauren with empty gray eyes. “I will take your silence as an affirmation that we understand each other, Mr. Doe. Would you like to explain to us what you were doing at the Leftwich residence?” asked Lauren. 

Her voice was direct. 

The transient looked at the agent with a gaze that seemed to be trapped a thousand miles away. Deep reservoirs of nothingness spiraled into a strange darkness. “Rivers are cold. Great darkness all around us. Fate binds us. Drives us. Have to finish. Have to finish.”

Agent Westlake turned to look toward the sheriff, who simply looked annoyed. He walked over, standing between the agent and the transient. Hands flat against the table, he glared at the dirty wretch of a being. “You ran from police. We found some things on your person that may or may not have been stolen. We suspect you broke into the Leftwich house. If you didn’t do anything, best speak up now. Clear all this up.”

“What do you have to finish?” queried Lauren. 

The transient looked at her then. 

There was something haunting in his gaze, frightening. “There were pieces. Pieces that go together.” He shifted, the heavy coat making his face sweat. “I have to find all the pieces and put them back together. Can’t build the tower until you have all the pieces.”

Montgomery was unconvinced. 

He did not buy into psychosis or therapist-babble. Things were or they weren’t, and the two would never meet. “Give us something or you are spending the night.”

“It’s warm here. No blankets. No snow,” he whispered, rubbing his hands together. 

Lauren looked at him sadly.

She wasn’t certain what to make of him. 

Montgomery, however, had a much different idea about the transient and he was not attempting to veil it. No-nonsense policing was common in rural areas. Something happened and somebody was responsible. His way was to get it done and out of the way, to return to peace. 

Lauren came from a place where there was always darkness, always more to be done. “Sheriff Montgomery,” spoke Lauren, drawing his attention. The older man looked at her with a hard gaze. “Could I speak to you outside?”

The sheriff did not acknowledge her immediately. 

“Sheriff, could I speak to you outside?”

He met Lauren’s eyes.

Something angry behind his look drew her attention. His manner was sedated, but a fire burned deep. The murders had stirred him, drawn out a much more emotional person. For a moment, his gaze shifted back to the transient. With an angry sigh, he pushed himself to his feet and pulled open the heavy door at the corner of the interrogation room. 

“We will be back in a moment,” spoke Lauren as she stood. 

The transient did not respond. 

His eyes followed her as she left and joined the sheriff in the cold adjoining hallway. Montgomery faced away from her, his arms crossed. She looked back at the closed door and was startled to see his face so close to hers when she turned back. 

“This is my investigation, Agent Westlake. You expressed an interest in assisting me. Interference, making judgments, was not part of the plan.”

“I have no intention of interfering in your investigation.”

He pointed into the room. “That man in there is hiding something. This crazy bullshit is just that. Shit.”

She resisted the urge to yell back, to escalate the argument. Calm prevailed. “That may be. We have nothing to hold him indefinitely. What we have is circumstantial. His presence at the Leftwich property was strange, I will admit that. However, we don’t know if what he had in the bag was stolen. Even if it was, it is worth a small amount. We would be hard-pressed to make something stick.”

Montgomery crossed his arms once more. “He was trespassing. And even without a broken window or door, there is still breaking and entering.”

“His mind isn’t in it. He smells like he lives under a bridge. We should keep him here overnight and turn him over to mental health authorities.”

Montgomery scowled. “We don’t have any mental health facilities this far north. I agree we should keep him here at least the night. I will think about sending him over to one of those Christian, Jesus centers, or whatever the hell they are called.”

Mrs. Meadows, portly and smelling as if she had a date at a brothel, approached. “Agent Westlake?”

Lauren had crossed her arms. Turning, she appeared more fearsome than she would have liked. “Mrs. Meadows, what can I do for you?”

She looked to the sheriff and then to Lauren. 

Throwing his hands in the air, he marched back into the interrogation room. “I’ll release him in the morning. But I don’t think this is over. I think that little son of a bitch in there has something to do with it.”

“He feels wrong for it.” The sheriff grabbed the handle of the door, pausing for a moment, as Lauren continued. “We have a full moon tonight. Maybe we will luck out with him in a cell.”

With a harrumph, the sheriff re-entered the interrogation room. Mrs. Meadows had stood by quietly, watching the exchange with a mute expression. “There is a man asking for you. Dominic McManus. Seen him around town, quite the statuesque biscuit.”

“Mrs. Meadows,” replied Lauren with a little laugh as if to reprimand her. 

“I just call it how I see it, Agent Westlake. If a tall drink of man like that was looking for me, I might not keep him waiting.”

She gave her a look that was to say ha ha. 

Moving ahead of Mrs. Meadows, she walked out into the open room of the police station and suddenly felt as if she had not showered in days. Not the pleasant desirable kind of dirty, but the how-could-he-possibly-look-at-me-when-I-look-like-this type of dirty. 

He wore loose jeans; though the denim fabric did little to hide the perfect sculpt of his powerful muscles. His blue eyes were like candles that lit up the room, drawing all the attention. A shaved face marked him as much younger than Lauren would have guessed. 

And as he spoke, she saw that his perfect lips remained unchanged. “I hope that you will not think me too forward, Ms. Westlake.”


He took a step forward, gesturing with one of his hands. “Of course, Lauren. I wanted to see you. After the other night, I felt like I owed you a proper evening.”

Lauren felt suddenly claustrophobic, as if all eyes in the room were on her. And in some respects, she was not incorrect. The deputy stood next to Mrs. Meadows, bumping her with a free elbow as he took a sip of his coffee. Glancing back, Lauren flashed a playful, dark glare.

“That isn’t necessary, Dominic. It was very kind of you to walk me home…” As she trailed off, she saw Collins and her macabre assistant emerge from a blind corner. She stuttered her words as she tried to speak again. “I mean, it was…”

He stepped forward, taking one of her trembling hands in his own powerful one. “I insist, Lauren,” he spoke slowly, eloquently. 

She rolled her eyes as she heard the snicker of the deputy, ruining her moment. Flashing another angry glare, he caught the drift and stalked away, hiding his face behind the coffee mug. “I would love to, Dominic. I have some things to do just now.”

He smiled. His teeth were perfect as well. 

“Of course, I understand.”

She felt quite girly in that moment; legs twisting and shoulders were bobbing like she was quite uncomfortable. Heat rushed to her face and other places she would not have cared to share. And the smile that came to her face was one that felt like it would be permanent. 

“Could you meet me at my room?” Another snicker and some whispering. She cleared her throat to continue. “Around 8 to pick me up.”

He bowed. It was a strangely endearing motion and was gone as quickly as it came. He kissed her lightly on the cheek and brushed her arms with his hands as he left. For a moment, it felt like the world had gone silent. The suddenness and brashness of the medical examiner’s voice was sufficient to jar her free from nirvana. 

“He is grade A sweetness there, honey. I’ve seen him around town,” lusted Collins, lowering her thick-rimmed glasses and placing a heavy hand on her hip. She turned to Lauren with a wink. “Saw him last summer out at the lake. Someone was quite generous with that one.”

Collins’ assistant limped toward Lauren. Perhaps it was her suspicious nature, or that they had as a unit nearly ruined a wonderful moment, but she was suddenly quite interested in why a medical examiner’s assistant would be limping. 

“How did you get the limp, Mr…?” She paused for his name as they had never been introduced. “Or would you prefer assistant? Mr. Coroner’s assistant? Or Collins’ assistant?”

“Brian, ma’am. Brian Erham.”

“How did you get that limp you have there, Brian Erham?” 

Collins looked at the agent with a sarcastic grin. “Looking for suspects everywhere, Agent Westlake?”

Lauren’s smile disappeared, her eyes sparkling. 

“My apologies. Must be the moon.”

“His limp is part of the problem, or rather the reason we are paying you this late-afternoon visit. There was a break-in at the morgue.”

Agent Westlake could not hide her surprise. The image of bodies flooded her mind: broken glass and blood pooling made her uncomfortable. “What was taken?”

Collins blanched and Brian, the assistant, turned away. “That is where it gets weird. Nothing was touched really. The front door was destroyed, hinges snapped and splintered. There was nothing disturbed, except for the Jane Doe.”

“The Jane Doe?”

Collins scrunched her nose, pulling free a folder rife with paper clips and binders. “I guess Jane Doe is not really appropriate anymore. Her name is Evelyn Marshall. Not local, she was from the Twin Cities down south. We don’t know why she was here. I suppose that is your job, Agent Westlake.”

She extended the folder to Lauren who took it. 

Thumbing through the pages, she scowled. She read the pages silently in a scattered barrage of alternating fonts and gruesome pictures, ageless renditions of the person Evelyn Marshall used to be. “What was done to the Jane Doe? I mean to the body of the late Ms. Marshall?”

“Mrs. Marshall from the records. She is still married to some businessman. I don’t think that will be a pleasant conversation, hey.”

Lauren felt irritation creep in. She wished to get to the point. Dominic was removed for a moment, replaced instead with death and sadness. “What happened to the body of Mrs. Marshall?”

Collins, her vaudevillian beehive brightly colored, gestured to Brian. “He was there. Saw the whole damn thing. Scared the holy hell out him. It is quite a story.”

Lauren closed the file and crossed her hands in front of her body. “Mr. Erham, what happened?”

He was frightened. He already had a strange manner, which was only confounded by shifting eyes and a penchant for rubbing his arms roughly. “I was cleaning up. Ms. Collins had gone home for the day. I do the closing stuff, make sure everything is stocked. Locked up and all that, ya know?”

Lauren nodded.

He looked back to the creaking door of the interrogation room and saw Montgomery appear. “Anyways, I was closing up. I locked the door because––because sometimes I worry something will get me when I’m down there.”

Montgomery sauntered close, arms crossed. It was his trademark. He looked to Westlake, who nodded knowingly. “We have some trouble?” he asked. 

Lauren ignored him. 

“Continue, Mr. Erham. What happened next?”

He seemed to grow more frightened by the moment. “I heard some glass break upstairs. I started up the stairs to check it out and then I saw it.”

“Saw what?” asked the deputy with wide eyes. 

Clearly, he was taken in by the ambiance. 

Lauren shook her head. 

“What did you see, Mr. Erham?”

“It was big, like human-sized. But, it didn’t move like a man. It sort of ducked and crawled on all fours, but then stood up again.” He gestured to his arms. “There was fur or hair all over it. Slicked back in some places, standing up on ends in others. Then the sound….”

He visibly shuddered, his eyes closing. 

Lauren grasped a chair and set it down in front of the shivering assistant. “Have a seat, Mr. Erham.”

Obliging, he continued. “There was this growl, but it wasn’t human. It sounded like something was dying and wanting to kill all in one. It came at me when I was at the top of the stairs. I tried to shut the door, but it was too fast.”

Everyone in the room was hooked. They leaned forward, eyes wide, waiting for what came next. “It brushed past me, knocking me down the stairs.” He gestured to his leg. “When I hit the ground, I knew something was hurt. I crawled into the corner, trying to get away from it. I didn’t know…”

“That must have been very frightening, Brian.”

He gulped. “Yeah,” he replied with a stammer. 

“And then what happened?”

He shifted in his seat uncomfortably. 

“It looked back at me. I couldn’t see its face, but its chest just heaved. Then its head lifted in the air and I heard it breathe, like it smelled the air. It walked over to the drawers. The one with Mrs. Marshall in it and opened it. Opened it hard. He pulled the damn runner all the way out. It was loud when it clattered on the floor.”

Meadows brought him a cup of coffee with a weak smile. He graciously accepted it, cradling it in two hands. “Then it––then it reached out with one of its claws.”

“Claws?” asked Montgomery incredulously, and much louder than he would have wished. He was not the only one wound up by the young assistant’s story. The police station had grown deathly quiet as he conveyed the tale. 

Brian made a gesture with his hands, the cruelest manner in which he could twist his fingers and hand. “It was tough to see, but they looked like long, slender fingers with sharp tips. It dug into the body, pulling free skin and organs.”

Lauren inched closer, having taken a seat on another of the chairs. It was turned so that she could lay her arms over the top of it. “Did you get a good look at it? Male or female?”

He swallowed hard again, his hands shaking. “It was tall. Real big. Strong. I don’t think it was female.”

“Male?” she volunteered with a half-hearted smile. He shook his head. “Not male? But not female? What exactly are we talking about?”

“It was a creature. Some thing,” he answered with a hoarse voice.

Montgomery flashed Lauren a look that she had come to understand in their brief time working together. He did not believe the intern. 

“Have you had anything to drink today, Mr. Erham? Any drugs? Took a long, slow whiff of some chemicals in the morgue?” queried the sheriff, his tone shifting from mystified to disbelief. 

Brian looked at the sheriff. 

“No, sir. You don’t believe me?”

Agent Westlake placed a reassuring hand on his leg. “We believe that something happened, Mr. Erham. What we are not certain of is whether your story accurately reflects what did happen.” 

He looked hopeless as he lowered his eyes and placed his hands on his knees. Lauren leaned back and stood from her chair, pacing past him. Collins seemed uncomfortable by the entire situation. 

It was the deputy, however, who broke the tense silence. “You think it was some kind of monster? Like a werewolf, hey?”

Montgomery and Lauren flashed him a dark glare. 

He did not shrink away. Brian Erham, frightened medical examiner’s assistant, was suddenly quite elated that someone had joined his bandwagon. “Something supernatural, hey. I’ve heard stories about wolves in the woods, walking on two legs like men.”

Montgomery uncrossed his arms and grunted. “What about witches then? Maybe zombies running about attacking folks?”

The deputy and the examiner’s assistant clammed up good and quick. Lauren picked up the folder with Marshall’s wayward identity. 

She felt exhausted, worn thin. “I think we have reached the end of rational discussion here. I think I will retire for the night. I have other plans to attend to. We can pick this up again in the morning.”

Mrs. Meadows, heady from the tales of things crawling about in the dark and handsome strangers spinning yarns of great affection, snickered. “With a certain tall drink of brooding and handsome.”

Lauren blushed and Montgomery cast a comical grin.

“Seems I missed a bit while I was walking our John Doe to his night-time accommodations. I take it Agent Westlake has an interesting night ahead of her?”

The deputy was quick to chime in. “McManus came by. Taking the agent for a proper evening.”

“Sounds fancy.”

Lauren thought to comment. But whatever she said would simply fuel the joking she was receiving. With a wave behind her, she departed. Pushing out into the cold late afternoon of the small Minnesotan town, she realized it was already quite dark.

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Inside Look: Bitten Day 5

A predator stalks a cold northern Minnesotan town. There is talk of wolves walking on two legs and attacking people in the deep woods. Lauren Westlake, resourceful and determined F.B.I Agent, has found a connection between the strange murders in the north and a case file almost a hundred years old. Traveling to the cold north, she begins an investigation that spirals deep into the darkness of mythology and nightmares. Filled with creatures of the night and an ancient romance, the revelation of who hunts beneath the moon is more grisly than anyone could have imagined.

A few questions for the author:

What was the greatest thing you learned at school? 

That school was not for me. I am one of those irritating people who doesn’t have study and just shows up for tests. I loved diagramming sentences and reading Where the Red Fern Grows though. 

Do you laugh at your own jokes? 

Sometimes, though I am have a pretty wry and specific sense of humor. 

Do you admire your own work? 

No. I like what I do and I am confident in my work, but I try and maintain some distance from it, especially during the editing process. Sometimes I will return to a book I have written and not recall writing it. I am proud of my work, otherwise why publish in the first place. 

What are books for? 

Escape. Adventures. Thinking. Being irritated. Starting Conversations. Changing lives. Anything you can think of, good or bad, there is probably a book that can inspire that feeling.

Here be an excerpt for your enjoyment:

Chapter V

The Leftwich house was on the far side of Locke, near the Canadian border. Lauren sat in the passenger seat of the cruiser, a hand on her face as she watched the town of Locke pass around her. The police station gave way to wide open roads of unending gray skies and green, muted tree lines. As they moved past the rundown residential district at the north end of town, it became many miles of nothing.

The deputy followed behind in a tall truck. 

His headlights were obscured by dirt lying over top. A windshield caked in mud prevented Lauren from being able to see the toothy grin the boyish deputy frequently sported. 

A factory came into view. 

The majority of the town worked there or was married to someone who worked there; or was a child of someone who worked there. There was little in the frozen little town that was not associated with the heavy equipment manufacturer that employed several thousand employees from not only Locke, but neighboring towns and cities. 

Some drove as many as three hours for a shift. 

The building was imposing. 

Heavy stacks of smoke filtered into the gray, listless sky. The parking lot, rife with dirty piles of snow, was filled with a portrait of American wealth. Some spent on vehicles, brand new trucks and off-road vehicles, and others on their lives and families with cars older than the youthful deputy. 

“Did either of the victims work there?”

The sheriff did not take his eyes off the road. His hands were fitted in heavy brown gloves with dirty scratches and visible holes that spilled forth a slew of fabric and hide. 

“At Erikson’s?”

“Is that the factory to our right?”

He nodded. 

A heavy wool cap covered his graying hair. 

Dark eyes watched the road carefully. 

It was difficult to tell the time of day. Darkness spread across the flat, forested landscape, but it could be because it was night or simply because the inhibiting cloud cover strangled away the sunlight. 

“Madeline Leftwich had a brother. Worked there a few years. Lost him last year, drunk driving.”

Lauren nodded solemnly. 

“Sad thing.”

Montgomery nodded as well. 

They rode in silence for some time. 

Death had a way of sobering discussions. 

Lauren felt exhausted. The stress of the trip on top of the initial resistance was suffocating, yet there was one strange ray of light. That man in the bar, Dominic. It took almost an hour of twisting, uneven warped roads before the farmhouse came into view. 

It was surrounded by dirt fields with sprouts of somber brushes and sprawling weeds that survived the bitter cold of the winter. A large patch just in front of the house was dark green, saturated from water deep within the ground. 

Ice waited to thaw and flood in the spring. 

The patrol car slowed. Montgomery shifted the old car into park and gripped the steering wheel thoughtfully with his gloved hands. He wiped a hand over the foggy windshield so he could see.

With a shove of her shoulder, Lauren exited the car. 

She slammed the door. 

“So this is the Leftwich house?”

The sheriff stood beside her.

His bowed head made his voice drift. “Been in the family since the 40s or 50s. There was talk of selling after all the floods in North Dakota. See enough winters in this part of the country, you think twice about living here.”

“I’m already thinking twice,” she grumbled, her hands deep in the pockets of the heavy black coat she wore. The cold steel of her service revolver was an annoyance at her hip. At that moment, she thought very seriously about getting a shoulder harness. 

Montgomery walked toward the front steps. 

Puddles of darkened earth had formed near the steps, where there were no doubt frozen puddles just waiting for the beginnings of a warm spell to burst loose, turning the hard earth into tumultuous clay. He kicked his boots against the first step, walking heavy to clear anything from his feet. 

Lauren smiled. There was some gentlemen in the old cop. “You think stomping in is a good idea?” she called playfully as she caught up to him. 

Farther in the distance, the old truck rolled up. The deputy bounded from his vehicle like a puppy. His wide wool hat covered his ears and made his official hat look quite comical. He carried a shotgun over his shoulder like he was Huck Finn out for a grand adventure. 

“You expecting some play, Agent Westlake?” said the sheriff, his head turning slightly to grin at her. 


A knock on the door was received with hollow ears. The sheriff waited, his hands laced with one another. His head bowed, he listened closely. Lauren moved around the front of the porch, peering in the front windows. 

“Looks like its empty,” she mused. 

“Did you expect otherwise?”

Lauren looked at him with a smile. “If you didn’t think anyone was in there, why knock?”

He turned the door handle, allowing the cold air to greet the shadowed interior of the Leftwich house. “It’s polite.”

Lauren moved through the door, her hand on her gun all the same. The interior was as one expected from a middle-aged single woman, cramped and reeking of cat urine; ugly furniture and drapes that could only be described as last century lined dirty, foggy windows. The floor was wood, as were most places this far north, and there was the steady hiss of a running heater somewhere in the house. 

And then, of course, there were the footsteps. 

The sheriff paused, drawing his weapon. 

“Did you hear that?”

Lauren nodded, her weapon already drawn and held against her side with both hands. Her eyes were penetrating as she surveyed the room. She looked to the sheriff and pointed to herself and then down a hallway that led deeper into the house. 

He nodded, mirroring the gesture except in the opposite direction toward the kitchen. The heavy footfalls returned, this time sprinting across the house, echoing. Lauren looked at the ceiling, her eyes swiveling, monitoring the movement.

She placed a black boot on the first faded paint-chipped step of the stairs that led upstairs. Each step was a pronounced squeak, the aged wood giving way to the elements and the light step of the agent. She chanced a look over her shoulder at the hallway she had just come through: no sheriff.

She extended her weapon out. Shoulders tense, but ready. There was relaxation in anticipation, a giddy feeling in her stomach. She rounded the midpoint of the stairs, looking up into the half-light of the second floor; again the footsteps, they were definitely just ahead. Taking another step forward, her gun remained leveled forward like a caricature of a video game heroine. 

“Federal Agent,” she spoke clearly, confidently. 

The footfalls moved across one side of the house to the far right of where Lauren stood. Moving quickly, she was between the door frames: weapon extended, eyes hard. 

“Come out. Reveal yourself.”

It was a small room with four walls of miserable paintings, water-damaged and crooked in their placement. There was a closet on the far end of the rom. The doors were slightly ajar; bent forever in a kind of limbo that never allowed it to close quite right. Magazines and clothes scattered across the floor, creating a kind of quilt of dull, earthen colors. 

“If you are in the closet, I am not up for fucking surprises. Throw out any weapon you are carrying and place your hands behind your head and walk toward me.”

She crossed the room, watching the weird shapes that erupted as shadows on the walls. Through the half-light of Minnesota winter, there were strange lines carved of geometric patterns. 

The closet shifted and the agent held her breath. Fingers tightened around the handle of her service weapon. “Son of a bitch,” she whispered. 

The closet door opened suddenly, a flutter of motion. Musty clothes swung on hangers. An avalanche of shoes with laces that were angry passengers on a train of fabric collided with the cold ground. 

There were flashes of orange and tan: whiskers. 

Lauren wheeled, bringing her weapon around, following the shadow that had exploded from the darkened interior. The winter solstice had brought with her shorter days. The translucent sun, hidden behind a veil of soupy clouds, seemed to have all but disappeared as the agent held her breath. She followed the shadow through the stacks of antiques and heirlooms of the throwaway sort.

Her eyes narrowed as she watched the corner of the room. She knew it wasn’t human. A stack of old books: yellow and brittle, they tumbled to the ground drawing her attention. It was a cat. Tan and orange with long whiskers and a ruffled coat, it looked at Lauren with suspicious eyes.

Agent Westlake replaced her weapon and knelt slowly, hoping to not scare the feline. “Hey there,” she spoke in a form of anthropomorphic motherese. The cat sauntered close, walking in a wide arc, feet scurrying and reconsidering the strange human in front of it. 

“Agent?” called the sheriff’s heavy voice. 

The cat looked in the direction of the voice, startled. Lauren moved closer, extending out a hand. And in perfect form, it moved away, no longer interested in the affections of a human. Shaking her head, she stood and looked back into the hallway from which she had come. 

“Agent Westlake?” called the sheriff once more. 

The footfalls came before Lauren could respond. This time there was no disguising their origin. Her gun was in her hand in a smooth movement. Sure feet beneath her, she was in the hallway again, gun leveled. Eyes steeled. The wood planks creaked and echoed as she shuffled across them with a purposeful precision. 

There were only three rooms on the floor. And only one still looked as if it had previously been used. Lauren moved toward it, licking the grim line of her slender lips. There was a knot in her stomach, not from fear, but from a sense of necessity. Her hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail. Transient wisps fell across her face, itching her eyes and cheeks. 

Her foot collided with the door. 

She entered, gun moving one direction and then another, taking in the empty room. There was not even a shelf. A cold draft slapped her in the face. The window was open, broken panes spider-webbed from frozen fingers and mismanagement. 

Looking down onto the back field of the property, she saw the heavy black jacket and churning legs of a fleeing suspect. Her voice echoed in the cold empty house. “Montgomery, we have a runner.” 

She bounded down the stairs, taking them four at a time. As she reached the bottom of the steps, she heard the front door bang open and then the volumetric reverberations of a shotgun blast echoing in the silent country. Crows and carrion birds fled their perches in the spindly and horrific trees that overlooked the Leftwich property. As she ran out onto the porch, she saw the deputy in the distance, shotgun over his shoulder. The sheriff lingered over the bearer of the heavy coat, his features hidden. 

Lauren ran toward them, heavy coat flapping in the wind. The current of air made her feel that much colder. The ground was hard, nearly concrete. She felt the impact of the frozen earth. 

The sheriff had already cuffed him, his voice was weary. “Do you understand your rights as I have explained them?” he finished. 

The man looked forlorn.

An uneven beard, the hair sticking up in some places and pushed flat in others, and wild eyes looked down toward the earth. The coat he wore was too large for him. His thin face matched his wiry frame accented by ribs exposed through his shirt. His voice was raspy as he spoke. “Sheep. Prey. Ants crawling in the frozen earth, but they can’t find their way home,” he mumbled, not meeting the eyes of the sheriff.

Lauren was winded as she neared the trio. 

“Was he carrying anything?”

The deputy extended a burlap bag. 

“He was carrying this, been mumbling ever since.”

Lauren opened the bag and crinkled her nose at the smell. The smell of old cheese and dead animal emanated like fog rising from a bay. The wind had picked up, destroying sound and smell; sterilizing the senses like hot coals on a wound. She reached a gloved hand in and pulled clothes free. 

Men’s shirts and a pair of jeans as well some cans of food. There was a bottle of unmarked whiskey, the label having been picked clean years before. “Nothing. Why break into a house and take old clothes and canned food? Is he homeless? Do either of you recognize him?”

The sheriff tried to turn the kneeling man, but he simply shrunk deeper into himself. “It is tough to say, we don’t have many transients. We’ll bring him in. Let him get warm and see what we can get out of him.”

Lauren nodded as the sheriff and deputy walked the stumbling mass of shadow and man back toward the patrol vehicles. She remained, the wind beating against her exposed face, making her squint. 

The trees in the distance swayed rhythmically. Skeletal remnants gave way to dense evergreens that rustled; a mournful call in the winter winds. She tried to envision the distance from the Leftwich house to the scene of the first murder. 

The lake: it was there somewhere deep in the woods. If she could remove the trees from her line of sight, there would be an answer in the deeper thicket. She walked away slowly, turning her back on the darkness of the forest line.

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