Book One in The Hellfire Trilogy
A Mystery Novel
Featuring Sheriff Josh Wolfe
Excerpt from Chapter 1
October, Point Jove, Missouri
It was her uncanny likeness to Adele, his adoptive sister, that made him stare at her. She sat to one side of a barstool with an arm propped on the padded edge, nice legs crossed beneath a short denim skirt. She sipped a margarita; checked out the Saturday night crowd in the intimate saloon setting. Smiled and waved at anyone she knew.
Jim took a seat at the end of the bar. He slid a pack of Morilos out of his shirt pocket. One by one, the single men honed in on her only to get shot down. He lit a cigarette to curb a satisfied smile. The slow moving couples on the dance floor reminded him of his brief stint as a deckhand on a cargo ship and the way the vessel rocked side to side on the rolling sea in advance of a storm. He loved it, even when he was almost swept overboard by a crashing wave.
When a barman with ERIC on his nametag approached, he ordered a shot of off-brand bourbon. A rock glass was plunked down in front of him. Jim paid for the drink with cash. He flicked ashes into an empty peanut bowl. Downed the cheap whiskey that displeased his palate.
Tilting a hat back on his head, he cast a furtive glance in her direction. The lights winked at her auburn hair when she tossed her head back to knock long strands from her shoulder. She looked at him, her eyes twinkling with carefree interest. Glossy red lips beckoned him with a playful smile.
He stood. An older man staggered toward her. Jim realized the effort to go unnoticed so he could keep coming back was about to end.
Stripped down to their underwear and socks, the two men walked into the chilly, snake infested waters of White River swatting mosquitoes every step of the way. Moving slowly through a shallow, rocky area with only their head and shoulders above the surface, they stayed close to the bank using their hands to feel around under submerged boulders. A half a mile or so upstream from where they had slung the rest of their clothing over a tree branch, the man in the lead, twenty-seven-year-old Kevin Rayland, took a deep breath, and dove under the water.
More than happy to play the role of spotter, Jasper Monroe kept a watchful eye out for game wardens who don’t care the practice of noodling has been legal in Missouri for quite a while. Since most flathead catfish are on the nest when they’re noodled, wildlife fanatics continue to argue that too many eggs are being destroyed, and this ridiculous and dangerous style of fishing must end.
They weren’t there to hand-fish. Not today. If they get caught, not tomorrow, either.
Kevin shot up out of the water, gasping for air. Swiped a hand down his face. “Found one.”
Jasper got behind him, and tucked his hands under Kevin’s arms to help him keep his balance while he twisted sideways to put his leg in the catfish hole. “Yep, it’s empty.” Jasper let go. Kevin fell backward, scraping his knee. Went under again trying to gain his footing. Angrily smacked the water with the side of his hand.
“Take it easy. Don’t be stirring up any damn leeches.” Jasper broke off a sturdy twig full of stiff brown leaves, stabbed the end in the ground above the hole to mark the spot. Piled rocks around the base for added support. “Let’s get this over with.”
In the waning daylight the men trudged back to their starting point, on guard for venomous snakes swimming about. “Good thing it rained,” Kevin whispered. “It turned the water brown. Maybe they won’t see us coming.” He shuddered, knowing how easy it would be to encounter snakes or beavers that have taken over abandoned holes. A sock won’t prevent sharp teeth or fangs from sinking into his flesh. Snapping turtles can also inflict a lot of misery by biting off a finger or two.
When they reached the rocky shoal, Jasper remained in the water. “Go on, get her.” Focused on the lengthening shadows in the surrounding woods he thought he saw movement. He leaned in, squinted his eyes, then pulled back. “Hurry the hell up,” he said in a low tone.
Kevin ran over to the boulder where they’d hidden the twenty-something ticket taker. He grasped her by her wrists, dragged her to the water’s edge. Jasper took hold of her hands, pulled her headfirst into the water. Kevin jumped in, reached under and found her feet. Her long hair flowed across her face like corn-yellow seaweed stems. The water washed blood from her wounds and marked her passing, as they floated her to the hole in the riverbank.
Jasper crossed her arms over her bare chest then pressed down hard, pushing her under. Banged her head against the rocky wall several times trying to find the opening.
“What’re you doing?”
“I don’t think she’s going to fit.”
“Sure she will. You’re just too chickenshit to duck under and do it the right way.”
“Oh yeah?” Jasper went down, and worked her head and shoulders into the mouth of the hole. Shoved her in as far as she’d go. Jumped up and sucked in a lungful of air. “There’s not enough room for her feet.” He glanced at the concave bank of the meandering river. “I don’t see anything we can use to cover her with.”
“So what? It’d take one hell of a drought for the water to recede enough for someone to see her feet sticking out of there. That could be many years from now. I don’t see the little waterfall up ahead going dry any time soon. Besides, it won’t be long before critters start feasting on her.”
“Whatever. Frickin’ knowitall. C’mon, it’s getting dark. I sure as hell don’t want to be in here when it is. I could use a smoke and a beer, anyway. If we hurry, we’ll have time to stop by Roadhouse Redd before the fireworks begin.”
Jasper raced ahead.
Kevin stood still waiting for the ripples to subside. He looked intently at the muddy water trying to see through it. Tried to imagine lying in that dark hole for all of eternity. Tried to remember exactly why Jasper thought they should remove her clothes. Tried to remember where they stashed them. He felt sorry for her. Just a little. What was her name? Carly? Charley? He shook his head in disdain. What woman goes off with two guys she’d just met? Harley, was it?
Screw it. It isn’t my fault why she tripped and fell down.
From June 2013 to April 2014 -- I re-wrote, re-covered, and re-uploaded all my books. Completed the Bad Mojo Series (SERIAL QUILLER). Compiled all 13 episodes of SERIAL QUILLER into one book, A BAD MOJO SERIES MYSTERY SET, and made a cover for it. Updated my accounts with Goodreads and Shelfari.
Then someone pointed out to me that I had forgotten to "right justify" my stories. I checked. Sure enough, the uneven right edge looked sloppy and unprofessional. Jeezlepete. To keep from overwhelming the Draft2Digital and Amazon people I resubmitted one book at a time, day after day, for two weeks or more. I am happy to announce that all 24 titles are up and running.
I went to the Kindle Community Forum (KBoards) to put the new cover for STAY WITH ME on my forum profile. When I typed the title in the search box 20-some books with the same title popped up. I knew in an instant I didn't want this title anymore. Mostly, I didn't want someone to look for my book and find one of the others instead! I changed my title to LIZZE, then made a new cover.
On SERIAL QUILLER: I omitted key information so the story didn’t invite people to try stupid things.
I'm getting a picture made for my blog. Changing the background of my blog, as well.
The groundwork has been laid for a romance story, a children's story, and a Halloween ghost story, but for now, I'm taking a much-needed break from writing.
SERIAL QUILLER 1 - Moved by the success of her debut novel, twenty-six-year-old BJ Donovan of New Orleans, Louisiana can’t handle the thoughts of being a one-hit wonder and never feeling special ever again.
Using her position as the executive chef and owner of a popular restaurant in the French Quarter to blend in with the community she embarks on a killing spree, by means of voodoo magic, and uses details of the murders to maintain her best-seller status with an episodic thriller series.
While the body count rises—from her brother’s girlfriend, found mutilated at an abandoned farmhouse, to an undercover cop murdered in a dark alley on the riverside—BJ tries to remain above suspicion as she continues to write the wrongs in her world.
SERIAL QUILLER 2 - St. Augustine, Florida
SERIAL QUILLER 3 - Savannah, Georgia
SERIAL QUILLER 4 - Key West, Florida
SERIAL QUILLER 5 - Charleston, South Carolina
SERIAL QUILLER 6 - Salem, Massachusetts
SERIAL QUILLER 7 - Cincinnati, Ohio
SERIAL QUILLER 8 - Chicago, Illinois
SERIAL QUILLER 9 - Portland, Oregon
SERIAL QUILLER 10 - Hollywood, California
SERIAL QUILLER 11 - Las Vegas, Nevada
SERIAL QUILLER 12 - Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
Following the untimely death of his parents, Daniel, a teenage outcast, reluctantly moves into his uncle’s home in the country where he’s left feeling even more friendless and isolated.
He discovers a lonely girl is haunting the old mansion when he sees her standing at the outside entrance to the cellar. Her name is Lizze, she tells him, and this is where she stood the night she was murdered in 1897 on her seventeenth birthday. Daniel’s great grandfather shot her because he had reason to believe his wife was about to find out he’d been having an affair with her servant. Lizze’s body was hidden in the cellar and then forgotten.
Daniel and Lizze become fast friends. By year’s end they are deeply in love. When he turns eighteen, his uncle orders him to go out and seek his own fortune. Torn between two worlds, a foiled robbery attempt changes Daniel’s life forever.
The paramedics had taken his parents to the morgue long before he stepped off the high school bus. Severe weather warning sirens echoed hollowly as they wound down. The rain had stopped but a new round of lightning raised fears of another bad storm on the horizon. Daniel walked close to the remains of his home, the roof and walls scattered about like a high-speed fan had hit a house of cards. A fierce and devastating EF-5 tornado had made a direct hit on the low-income neighborhood and completely flattened it.
He stopped and looked around, his vision blurred by heavy tears. On the ground a couple of feet beyond where the front door once stood was his father’s favorite baseball cap. He picked it up. Swallowed the lump in his throat. Unzipped his backpack, and put the cap inside.
The sounds of pain and misery were all around him. Terrified and injured pets hunted for their owners. Friends or relatives, huddled together in small groups, sought comfort while struggling to understand how such a horrible thing could have happened. Police officers, firefighters, and volunteers searched for the missing and the dead. Sobbing turned to wailing then to wretched screaming when a loved one was found. His next-door neighbors dug through a pile of rubble for pieces of the life they had when they woke up that morning. People came from all over the city to lend a helping hand, and to view the catastrophic damage.
No one came to console him, though. An outsider from the start of junior high, he’d never been able to rise to the challenge of trying to become popular at his new high school. He had less than two months to go until senior graduation. Now what? Start over, again, at another inner-city school? No thanks. Time to move on with his life. Who, besides his father, would even care if he became a dropout at age seventeen?
He spotted his father’s old model pickup truck, the hood crushed under the weight of an uprooted mature ash tree. Maybe he should move to another city. Far, far away.
“Daniel,” a man called out, startling him. He spun around. Saw his father’s brother wave his arm in a wide arc signaling for him to come over there.
He slung his backpack on one shoulder, shoved his hands in his pockets, lowered his head, and trudged to the curb where his uncle, Joseph Martin, a religious fanatic among other things, waited beside a shiny, midnight blue sedan with the motor humming quietly. Aunt Patricia sat in the passenger seat facing the windshield. When he drew nearer, she glanced his way and gave him a frosty welcome.
“Let’s go,” Joseph said to Daniel. “Don’t dwell on things you cannot change. Death decides who stays and who doesn’t. As for you, I’ve decided you should stay with me. For a while.”