In the meantime, my Children of Salem is now my bestselling Kindle title - 325 sold since Jan. 1 alone, and it has come up on several Kindle bestselling lists - and for a time was #1 in historical fiction.
I am working on Bayou Wulf and hope to have the rough draft finished between now and February's end, perhaps into March. That will be then a YEAR since I began work on Titanic 2012 -- giving myself a year to accomplish that book, which was completed and posted way in advance of a year -- on Halloween Night 2010. Up until Children of Salem took over as my highest selling title, it had been a thin, straightforward horror novel and so I am in an effort with Bayou Wulf to offer up more in the category of horror, and those who have read Titanic know of its suprenatural and horrorific overtones....after all, I did place a disease-spreading monster on board.
The Bayou Wulf title is an extension of my 3-book series featuring Dr. Abraham Stroud, vampire slayer whose inheritance frees him up to bring in any technology and any manpower and gunpower necessary to destroy such godawful creatures as werewolves, vampires, and revenants. Abe first appeared in Vampire Dreams, Werewolf's Grief, and Zombie Eyes - previous to this as paperbacks with older pub dates and more boring titles and artwork than my Kindle editions. Abe is an archeologist with a steel plate in his head earned in Vietnam, a former Chicago cop, and the great-great-great grandson of Van Helsing. Bayou Wulf continues his story - a continuation only made possible by my partnering with Amazon-Kindle.
I will place up an except of Bayou Wulf soon to give you a flavor of same. For now, I wish to place up a short story featuring Lucas Stonecoat whose four books begun with Cutting Edge are a study in character-driven story. A psychological thriller -- Here it is: Shy One Pearl
A Det. Lucas Stonecoat short story (Lucas is featured in the Edge Series)
Quarrelsome was the single word most people leveled at Detective Lucas Stonecoat, a full-blood Texas Cherokee Indian cop in Houston, and a man who proved that a Native American Indian could kick the stereotype, get off the reservation, and make a living as a police in the white world-and still keep his identity. There was much to admire about the man besides his Jimmy Smits good looks, his 6’4 lean frame, and his mesmerizing eyes. Still, he was surly and contentious ever since Pearl Sanchez had disappeared.
He kicked out at his desk, the sound sending a shot through the old police station slated for demolition.
“You gonna bring the house down before the wrecking ball?” asked Dr. Meredyth Sanger, police shrink, to whom Lucas always went for profiling help. He’d asked her for any insights she might have about the kind of man who could abduct a fourteen-year-old girl and then send little bloody pieces of her home to the family, making it clear he was chopping Pearl up little by little.
Lucas had gone over everything ten, eleven, twelve times. Everyone who worked for the father, everyone the mother had ever known, completely turning their private lives inside out in search of anyone anywhere at any time that either of the two might have crossed. Whoever was behind this crime seemed to take great, abiding joy in the suffering of Pearl’s parents, Pearl being their only daughter. It stood to reason it’d be a disgruntled employee, after All Sanchez ran a business both high-powered and involving hundreds of employees. Countless employees and come and gone, many of them upset with Sanchez. None of these panned out. But each had to be checked. Meanwhile the clock ticked on for Pearl.
He’d turned then in earnest to the mother, and he found things in her past she pleaded he keep just between them, things that even Sanchez didn’t know. Again none of the leads here panned out. He went back to Sanchez, tossing out the idea it was work-related, digging into his background. Could it be someone he’d crossed as a child, as a teen, as a young man in college? Nothing.
So much time wasted and nothing. The strike force had no better luck. The clock ticked on. Time was not on Pearl’s side.
They finally had to cede to the notion the maniac who had Pearl was a total psycho with an agenda he alone could possibly understand. A mad agenda that had no connection to the real world. This meant no real world sensible means of looking for a motive, and without a motive—if he had simply stalked her and lifted her off the street for no reason other than to chop her up and send her piece by piece home….how could they possibly catch the fiend?
He’d remained faceless all this time.
He left no clue, as corporeal as fog, a phantom within the fog, a fog that had kept Lucas in the dark all this time. Too long…another digit arrived in a tidy box.
The parents recognized the knuckle and nail.
Who knew if the crazed fiend might simply next take her leg, an arm, her head, or Pearl’s spleen, her heart, her stomach?
In the middle of it all, Lucas’s Chief, Aaron Phillips, recently having taken over the stationhouse that’d soon be leveled, got in Lucas’s face and ordered him in no uncertain terms to see a shrink other than his chum, Meredyth.
“For kicking a desk?”
“Just do it before this case overwhelms you!”
“See a shrink when the case is ongoing!” Lucas demanded.
“That’s an order! No excuses!”
“But time’s of the essence, Chief! We need to keep on the case, else Pearl—”
“Case’ll be waiting, Lucas. This one’s going nowhere.”
It was too true. In every sense of the word, the Pearl Sanchez case was going nowhere.
As soon as Chief Phillips turned his back, Lucas felt an attack coming on, one of his blackouts from a lingering condition from years past that only Meredyth Sanger knew of. He’d learned to trust her for this reason, but now she’s handing me off to some shrink I don’t even know? And what gives with Chief Phillips, stopping me from doing my job in the middle of my investigation? That just isn’t done!
Then the blackout was over as quickly as it threatened to drop him to his knees, and he saw it…saw it clearly. Something had changed in Pearl’s life. Her routine disrupted.
The new piano teacher.
How many times had he seen it in the paperwork. How many times had he ignored it?
Pearl was locked away in her piano teacher’s basement or attic or crawl space. Little Pearl’d been taking lessons for three years, and she played at the school pageant, a regular prodigy. The pictures depicted a beautiful young Hispanic girl. But her piano teacher had died in a car accident, and she’d begun to go to a new piano teacher. It was a detail no one, including Lucas, had paid any attention to.
Lucas raced from the old stationhouse in Mid-town Houston. He drove across the city with his strobe light flashing, horn blaring. He called for backup as he did so. The last package sent to her parents had held Pearl’s bloody left ear. The maniac could tire of the ‘game’ at any time.
“Anatomy is destiny,” Sigmund Freud had said. This was a twisted truism here. At what point would the piano teacher-turned-killer decide to take a piece of Pearl that would be fatal?
He found the address that’d been in their files all along, the same address he’d subconsciously memorized. The piano teacher had been pleasant and had answered all the questions previous detectives working under Lucas had asked of her. Her alibi established, she’d claimed not to have seen Pearl for a week, not since her last session at the keys. Another dead end, so he’d thought.
So everyone had thought.
Now he stood pounding on the door. He had no warrant, so he must talk his way in, sift about the place, make small talk, find reason to open the door to the basement, try to get a rise out of the bitch.
He calmly did it all, and Mrs. Louise Bohnheim came at him with a knife as soon as he went for the door. As soon as she attacked, Lucas put her down with a right hook and tore the door open. He took the rickety stairwell two and three steps at a time, and sure enough here was Pearl, her eyes wide, her mouth moving below the gag, her bare body shivering and covered with small cuts where the mad woman had been at play.
Lucas tore away her bonds and gag, and he lifted her into his arms, and she said thank you repeatedly in a mantra of gratitude, and he told her to save her energy, and that he’d get her to a hospital, and that she’d soon be in the arms of mother and father. Safe.
“Is that the way you remember it, Detective Stonecoat?” asked Dr. Kari Martin, the police shrink he didn’t trust, despite kind things Meredyth had said about Martin.
“You can be sure she’s the best, Lucas. I would only find the best for you. I love you, remember?”
“Remember?” he looked up to see not Meredyth but Dr. Martin instead. “Hold on. Whataya mean, how I remember it. That’s how it was, just like I told you.”
“You spoke to Pearl when you found her?”
“And she spoke back?”
“Thanked you repeatedly, you say?”
“And when you got her to the hospital, she…her eyes were open and she was conscious?”
“Yes! How many g’damn times I gotta say it?”
“Until you get it right.”
“Meredyth said to keep at you until you get straight with this Pearl Sanchez business, detective.”
“Detective, the coroner has time of death for Pearl Sanchez at twenty-four hours before you reached her.”
He shook his head firmly….then more firmly. “That’s not how it happened.”
“No…not in your head, obviously.”
Lucas swallowed hard and stared at his griddle-sized hands; they seemed far away, as if his arms were turned to rubber and stretching away from him. Martin finally broke the silence. “Detective, how long since the Sanchez case was closed?”
“Active yesterday, closed today.”
“Try six months ago, Lucas.”
“Six months?” Lucas looked around the office and past the office to the green walls of the institution. “Six months?”
“That’s how long you’ve been with us here.”
Doctor and cop stared across at one another in a silence of infinite depth.
“You saying, I was committed?”
“And Pearl Sanchez is dead?”
“I carried her to the hospital in my arms. Gave her to the ER people.”
“Dead, sir. You carried her in dead.”
“I’m sorry, but at least for you, this is a good day.”
“A good day?”
“A breakthrough. You’re aware of your surroundings.”
“Pearl didn’t make it?”
“You had a break down, Lucas.”
“But she talked to me.”
“Perhaps on some level she did; perhaps you soothed her spirit, Lucas, but her body was gone when you arrived ahhh…too late.”
“Too late. But for six months now, playing it over and over in my mind…”
“You saved Pearl. You weren’t too late.”
“I let her down in the real world.”
“It’s a burden to be sure, detective, but one that we’re here to help you accept.”
“The only way to free you.”
“Free me from this place?”
“No…from…from this version of events…”
“Gotta accept the truth.”
“Then we can talk about your going out the door.”
Lucas heard faint music playing somewhere the other side of the door. He stood, pushed his chair away, and went toward the door. “I could’ve sworn I’d gotten there in time.”
“I’m sorry. Everyone is.”
“I never suspected the piano teacher.”
“No one did.”
“No one did in time.”
Quarrelsome was the single word most people used for Detective Lucas Stonecoat, surly and contentious ever since the Sanchez case. Before that he’d been a likeable fellow, and he’d had a chance with Dr. Sanger. Not anymore. That Sanchez girl…what was her name? Pearl, a shy one, yeah…. He’d gotten there shy maybe twenty, twenty-four hours…had failed to break it in time. Now shy Pearl haunted him.
Now his badge weighed heavy.