Billy Ray Chitwood's Blog - Posts Tagged "crime"

A Closet Dark With Fear

A Closet Dark With Fear

Posted on November 15, 2012 by billyraychitwood1


Thought I might try to titillate you with the first two pages of a ‘Prologue.’ Call me shameless because the ‘Prologue’ is from my novel, Mama’s Madness.

This book was taken from some true life events and it was tough to write. It startled me to think that mothers of such quantifiable evil existed and doled it out at regular intervals. There are no ‘spoilers’ here and perhaps you will want to read more. The good news is that these mothers from hell are hopefully outside the reach of those reading this small portion.

From Mama’s Madness by Billy Ray Chitwood:



PROLOGUE

-1985-

“Help me! Please help me!”

It is a piteous whimper, lost in the black void of the narrow closet. The weak and eerie sound of her own voice chills her more fiercely than the cold. The thought brings an aberrant amusement. Her own small voice frightens her!

A sound! A creaking sound. Far off. A footfall! Is it? No. It is not a footfall. It’s just one of the strange noises that comes in the night.

Is it night?

Time is lost. Time is gone from her world like a chunk of youth. The black hole draws her toward an uncertain vortex. She must close her eyes. But, not so tightly. She sees less with her eyes lightly closed. There is better control of her quivering body. With eyes open, the blackness comes alive with trickery.

Some crawling thing moves along her upper arm. That is her perception. She shifts and finds a wooden wall protrusion. A vertical beam. She moves her arm and body in back and forth rushes to accommodate the itch.

Her wrists are painfully numb and raw. The handcuffs seem now natural esxtensions of her hands.

Her shoulders ache in their sockets. They are taut from the pull of arms bound behind her back.

How long? God! It seems an eternity! A small lifetime she has lived in this palpable darkness. Maybe, it has been two days. The air has no texture or stir. It hangs there, stale and dank.

Her face is flushed with fever. It feels stiff and crusty from the tears running over her abrasive wounds. She squints and contorts. She opens and closes her mouth. There are sharp responses of pain. Her entire body feels leaden and bloated. When she moves there is a burning chaff between her thighs. A complacent soreness pervades. It no longer matters. Nor does the stench from her body’s waste matter.

It is her mind which throttles her. Whisks her off in searing flashes, abates, lingers amid the blackness. A fragile sentry. Both enemy and friend.

It is all happening again! She is next to die. Just like Celia. Was it a year ago? Two? Time, again, is elusive, lost. What does it matter? A year ago or an hour ago! Sarilee knows she is next. Just like Celia…

Mama had beaten Celia, too. Had gotten so mad she shot her. But the bullet didn’t kill Celia. The fire killed Celia. The bullet lodged in Celia’s back and stayed there for two years. Celia healed with the bullet there in her back. Then, Celia had wanted to leave home.

Was that one year ago?

For some unknown fathoming, Sarilee wants to be precise in her remembering. Somehow, it is important to remember this point.

Yes, it was a year ago. They were living in an apartment near the old trailer court where Mama used to live…



Okay, that’s just the first two pages of Mama’s Madness. It’s my hope that you’re interested enough to read more. It is a dark tale but there are some moments of recompense and justice.

It’s on amazon.com (Kindle and paperback). It’s on Nook at Barnes and Noble. It’s on amazonUK. It is also on other E-formats.
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An Interview With John Dolan - Author of "Everyone Burns"

Posted on November 19, 2012 by billyraychitwood


This is a ‘Don’t Miss’ combo for you: an interview with a quality author and a partial review of his 5-Star book, “Everyone Burns.” If you have not had the pleasure of reading John Dolan you’ve missed a great experience from a writer extraordinaire. JD is truly a wordsmith for his times. He is also the man who introduced me and countless others to the word, ‘Galericulate’ — that’s the name of his website/blog. (See end of interview/review.) He’s the man hidden under the hat and he’s roaming around some continent or another. At last report, he was in Amsterdam. Meet John Dolan.

‘Burning’ John Dolan, writer extraordinaire – An Interview (Sort of!)


(Billy Ray Chitwood=BR) (John Dolan= JD)


BR: Okay, Filbert, take off the blindfold!

JD: Hey, not so rough! You just don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, do you?

BR: Why should I? You can leave us now, Filbert, and take Salome with you.

JD: You kidding me? ‘Salome!’ ‘Filbert!’ They’re ‘junkies…’

BR: Had no money…they grabbed you for the ‘grass.’

JD: Are you mocking me? Are you stealing my interview ideas?

BR: Show me a legal document!


JD: At least my chair is comfortable, and my straps are pure leather, not this cord crap!

BR: You left me no choice, JD, you broke your promise to take my books viral and…

JD: Correction! I said your books were vile and pretentious…

BR: Okay, okay, I understand you’re a bit angry…just some tit for tat, that’s all. I really like your book, “Everyone Burns,” and I’m thinking ‘movie,’ ‘TV series,’ something really big. Can we just relax and talk about the book?

JD: Can you at least put a cushion on this orange crate? You’re not helping my hemmies.

BR: How’s that? Better? Good…Now tell me about “Everyone Burns” and how you came to write it.

JD: Guess I got no choice, but you gotta promise me you’re not going to make a habit of this kind of interview. This is my idea, not yours. Do we have a deal?

BR: Yes, we have a deal…Hell, I thought you would be pleased!

JD: Well, I am, sort of, but this is intellectual property, not something you mess with, BR. Plus I only get one original idea per decade.


BR: Okay, no more kidnaps for interviews! Got it! Can we proceed?

JD: The events in “Everyone Burns” take place over seventeen days while Thailand is still numb from the giant tsunami of December, 2004. Like everyone of sane mind this great catastrophe made my emotions run wild, made me think of life like I had never really thought about it. “Everyone Burns” gave me some escape from the reality all around me.

BR: Really?

JD: No, not really. I wrote it for the money and the groupies.

BR: And how’s that working out?

JD: Probably about as well as it’s working out for you, I’d guess. Well … looking at you, probably slightly better with the groupies.


BR: Here’s a quote from ‘Everyone Burns, just after a bar fracas:

“To summarise, my life is one of split personality. I am in two minds about it myself. Nevertheless, down these narrow streets a man must walk, even if it is in flip-flops. But I am no Philip Marlowe, and Koh Samui is not film-noir USA. There is nothing of Hollywood’s black and white morality on this most colourful of Thailand’s Islands. And long overcoats just make you sweat in the sun. Here The Postman Never Rings Twice, simply because he never rings at all. He has better things to do. Lamai’s and Chaweng’s adventurers generally pack a condom, not a gun.”

You open the book with a broken cue stick inflicting injury to your protagonist and it’s like the excitement and action just never stops after that. I picked this quote because it’s one of my favorites but also because it gives the reader a sample of your splendid writing…Do you have any disagreement with my assessment here, JD?

JD: Take these cords off and I’ll kiss you. The passage is also a favorite of mine. Aside from the style thing in my writing, it is just basically who I am. But I’m NOT David Braddock, by the way. I want to make that clear in case my wife Fiona is reading this! A book of this genre for me has to move at a rapid pace, the action mostly non-stop. A lot of what I write about in “Everyone Burns” has some factual similarities, the people, the places, the time certainly. And, of course, you know my English is rather precise, proper, as it was intended to be! WHY are you smiling and shaking your head?


BR: Never mind, just me being me! It’s a great book, JD. Wish we had more time because I’d like to mention “People With Real Lives Don’t Need Landscapes,” a book of poetry you wrote in 2003. You certainly have a way with words, JD, and I happen to love poetry. As Amazon puts it, “This big bouncy collection of contemporary poetry draws on both popular and high culture. The poems have energy, imagination, humor, and lively speech rhythms. They are light, weighty, topical, intellectual, gory, sad, wild, and tender all at once.”

JD: I didn’t write that.

BR: What?

JD: I didn’t write that collection of poetry. That was a different John Dolan.

BR: Are you sure?

JD: What do you mean, “Am I sure”? I’m not likely to forget a thing like that, am I? Sheesh! It’s scary how your brain can live in such a small space.


BR: That hurts, JD. Well,regardless, I loved your book “Everyone Burns” and can’t wait for the sequel. People should really take a long look at you, my friend…


JD: ‘My friend!’ My butt is sore here, BR!

BR: Filbert and Salome are napping right now. I’ll untie you, but, please, no fracas here. Tit for tat, remember? Be gentle.



Please follow John Dolan on twitter – @JohnDolanAuthor


Visit his website/blog (‘Galericulate’): http://johndolanwriter.blogspot.com/s... (You do not want to miss his posts!)


Also visit JD’s amazon site: http://goo.gl/nElP1 (amazon)


(Really, follow him and read him. He’s ugly mean: it took two junkies and me to get him here for this interview/review!)
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Review of "Everyone Burns" a novel by John Dolan

5.0 out of 5 stars "Everyone Burns" is sublime chaos! The best kind!, November 9, 2012
By Billy Ray Chitwood

This review is from: "Everyone Burns" (Kindle Edition)

Sublime chaos! Action scenes and dialogues are deftly metered by a mind that seems ever reaching for outer limits. It's easy to be absorbed in the mad Thai business at hand, the off-beat protagonist, but it is the exquisitely witty patter and the author's unique penchant for challenging the reader's mind that moves one hungrily through the pages of "Everyone Burns." If you haven't read this 'wild and wonderful' guy, you've got to take the time... You will be glad you did - guaranteed!

Guess I'm biased because I love John Dolan's author interviews --- they are truly addictive, innovative, and must reads! (Just stay away from 'Digby!') I'm also a faithful follower on twitter. You, too, will be when you catch a glimpse of his talent...

Follow John Dolan on Twitter: @JohnDolanAuthor

Go to John Dolan's blogsite; http://goo.gl/wYWnn
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Published on November 22, 2012 12:07 Tags: action, anti-hero, bar-fights, crime, detective, everyone-burns, john-dolan, murder, thailand, thriller, tsunami

"An Arizona Tragedy - A Bailey Crane Mystery" (Book 1) - Excerpt

Posted on December 14, 2012 by billyraychitwood1

Liebsteraward

Remembering that a picture is worth a thousand words, I offer this excerpt from Book 1 of ‘The Bailey Crane Series’. There are five books in the series:

Book 1: “An Arizona Tragedy - A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 1)

Book 2: “Satan’s Song – A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 2)

Book 3: “The Brutus Gate – A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 3)

Book 4: “Murder In Pueblo Del Mar ‘ A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 4)

Book 5: “A Soul Defiled – A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 5)

“An Arizona Tragedy – A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 1) is rather close to my heart as it was inspired by the brutal death of a personal friend. The book is fictional but some of the crime data was taken from newspaper accounts of the day… the two principal murders (one in Phoenix, AZ and the other in Washington, DC) actually happened. The story, my words and plot lines are from my imagination, are not intended to cast aspersions on anyone as to guilt, are simply my way of paying homage to a young mother and actress who was taken so horribly from her family and friends.

Here is the excerpt from “An Arizona Tragedy – A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 1):

Six

Monday, September 4

Roy Martin’s private office on the twentieth floor of Arizona Bank Building afforded a panoramic northern view of Phoenix, west to east. The great sweep of space beckoned the eye to see forever, awakening the senses.

Remembering the green lush mountains of my native Tennessee and its own special beauty, my mind made its comparative notes: the incredible mountain trails of the Great Smokies, the great gorges and verdant valleys of that hill country with this spacious land of sun and desolate desert. There had been in Tennessee those chronic cloudy days to dampen a mood and marvelous sunny days that brought a multitude of fun activities. Here in the desert, there was a consistent pattern of sunny days and that spatial quality that overwhelmed my senses … made me wonder what psychological messages might be hidden in my obsessive love affair with the desert.

It was time to put the comparative thoughts away, to concentrate on the work at hand.

Spread across Roy’s small conference table were several documents, some bills, a check book, and a cup of coffee. Roy wanted me to familiarize myself with the Cooper estate, pay the bills as they came in, and catch any seeming inconsistencies that might appear. The court had approved my executor role in the estate, and I was a bit nonplussed in the sense that, here I sat, with the ability to manage a deceased man’s assets, to have legal authority to write checks, even, made out to myself. It was all rather new for me, and, in some respects, a bit daunting.

At the moment I was scanning a limited partnership printout, a real estate transaction that involved some land west of Phoenix. My eyes stopped abruptly when they encountered the name of Steve Langford. He was listed on the document as a general partner. There was that annoying, tantalizing thought again. Just a coincidence perhaps, but one that sent a mild shock wave through me. All the thought given to Cathy’s murder and Steve Langford, and there in front of me is his name on the Cooper document. It had to be no big deal. No fateful nonsense. It was just a stupid coincidence.

The discovery had most definitely gotten my attention, and, because I knew nothing about the technical aspects of a real estate limited partnership, I made a note to ask Roy for an explanation. At the moment he was in Lenny’s private office. This could wait.

There were some bills which needed to be paid, so I wrote out the checks, signed them, and put them in the proper envelopes along with the billing. There were some sizable funds also to be deposited to the estate. The deposit slips were prepared. Then, I turned my attention to other papers relative to the estate. There was nothing unusual, nothing that appeared inconsistent to me. In fact, I was impressed with the wise scope of the Cooper portfolio, even envied the magnitude of the estate and the sound management that had been given.

This whole business made me do some wishful thinking. Maybe one day my own estate would be of such size and worth. There were now only a few bucks in savings, a little raw land, and an annuity. My spending was too spontaneous and reckless, too much devoted to living the good life. This Cooper guy knew what he was doing. He was big time wealthy. My financial situation was okay and would get better, but Mr. Cooper did impress me with his business acumen.

Hey, I thought, that’s why they make ‘thirty-one flavors.’ Some people were successful as bankers, financiers, entrepreneurs, and workaholics. Some were like me: didn’t overdo the ‘work thing;’ left some time, lots of time, for fun and frivolity; worked just enough to make those ends meet. People like me did a considerable amount of procrastination, and we did a lot of daydreaming. Perhaps it was a phase people like me went through. One day, there would likely be some second guessing: why, oh, why didn’t I do this or that? Hopefully, not. Some of us have to smell those flowers.

There was always a price paid for what one did … someone very important must have said that. The corporate CEO works sixteen hours a day for twenty years to be on top of the heap, then discovers his kids are grown and he has an all of a sudden urge to do things that would have been better done twenty years ago. Perspective must not uniquely mean a mental view that fits all sizes. Perspective must be relative to a person’s time and place, the DNA, environment … oh, Bailey-boy, my alter ego speaks, please, stop with the philosophical digression, already!

The Cooper estate business had me thinking too much. Knowing myself, twenty years from now, I’ll still be full of my bible belt guilt, second guessing my choices, and still making a goodly share of goofs. Just what flavor is that? Vanilla? Strawberry? Pistachio? It is what it is!

The office door opened and closed. Roy sat next to me at the conference table and asked how I was doing.

“Doing fine. This is all just a little new to me … makes me think too much. Did have a little shock a moment ago when I saw Steve Langford’s name on one of these real estate limited partnership documents. Been doing so much thinking about Cathy and Steve, it was just a strange coincidence.”

“Well, that’s his business,” Roy responded. “He does land deals and other kinds of syndication. He’s really a wheeler dealer, an operator.”

Roy may not have intended it, but his last comment came across as disparaging. So, I asked: “Operator? As in scam, or, just a good honest hustling entrepreneur?”

Roy chuckled. “More, the latter. So far as I know, Steve’s all legal. But any guy who hustles as aggressively as Steve will sometimes be on the fringe of legality. It’s funny but I remember Cooper raising some questions about a particular land deal. He had heard something, just general, not specific, that led him to believe there could be some impropriety. I gave him my honest appraisal, told him these deals were being done in Arizona all the time and most were in step with current statutes. Of course, I told him that things like physical description of land, legal definitions as to numbers of partners and so on had to be within the purview of those statutes. There was some changes made to Cooper’s satisfaction and the deal went through.” Roy retrieved an ashtray from the desk and lit a cigarette.

“Well, I know precious little about these things It just gave me pause to see his name there. My problem, Roy, is that I don’t somehow trust that guy. He seems nice enough when I run into him during the business day, but when he’s had several drinks he changes. Hell, for that matter, I guess we all change when we’re drinking. It’s just that Pam remembers some bad occasions when she and Cathy lived together, and it got me to thinking and analyzing too much.” The coffee had gotten cold, and I declined a refill.

Roy said, “Cathy probably got very unlucky and was at the wrong place at the wrong time. There was probably some drug-crazed hippie-type hanging out around the school. Or, maybe someone from the apartment complex had been keeping an eye on her. Did you see Willis this morning?”

“No, heading there after leaving you.” It occurred to me that no one called Willis by his first name, Herman … on reflection, guess I would prefer Willis to Herman, as well.

“By now,” Roy went on, “Willis ought to have a thick file on Cathy’s murder. Maybe he’s got something solid by now. Seems to me Steve has too much smarts to kill someone, but who the hell knows, with the way things are these days? Hey, I’ve an appointment coming in. You pretty much through with Cooper’s stuff for now?”

“All done. I’m out of here. See you later.”

The way things are these days!

Going down in the elevator, I thought about that phrase. How were things these days? Much different than ten or twenty years ago? Much different than ten or twenty years from now? Did our lives really change all that much? Or, did we just get bigger and more visible? More visible because of technology? We can get from one end of the country to the other end so fast these days. People are moving more frequently, mixing up the ‘salad bowl’ ingredients with anxieties and frustrations. Mass media blasts are assaulting us. ‘Right’ and ‘wrong’ was still ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in any time, in any generation. The genes and chromosomes are still there. The mix! Was that the difference? If there was a difference.

Ugly and brutal murders happened in other areas. Richard Speck! Jack, the Ripper! Bluebeard! The mad Chicago doctor who had his own special torture chamber for his grisly meetings with young women!

“Whoa! Stop the thought machine,” yelling at myself as I drove out of the underground garage on my way to see Herman Willis. He was a fellow police officer and a friend for whom I had a great deal of respect. My tendency was to over think things … really! Moi?

END OF EXCERPT… Go to http://www.billyraychitwood.weebly.com and scroll down the ‘Home’ page and preview my books. The buying spots are listed after a short preview of each book. Click on the blog section on the ‘Home’ page if you would like to read my recent posts.

Further links: http://www.about.me/brchitwood

http://www.thefinalcurtain1.wordpress...

http://www.twitter.com/brchitwood

http://www.goodreads.com

For an author interview by author John Dolan, visit GALERICULATE at http://ow.ly/fVZIF
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"Satan's Song - A Bailey Crane Mystery" (Book 2) - AN EXCERPT

Posted on December 17, 2012 by billyraychitwood

“Satan’s Song – A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 2) is part of the five-book ‘Bailey Crane Mystery Series’. The book was inspired by a horrific murder in Phoenix, Arizona some years ago. The details in the newspapers of the day stunned me, and my imagination came up with all sorts of scenarios for the gruesome homicide. So far as I know, the murder was never solved… Here is the ‘Prologue’ to the book.

PROLOGUE

‘Sunday Morning Coming Down!’

The line from the song stayed with her long after the radio was turned off. The words conveyed the mood that held her captive.

‘Sunday Morning Coming Down!’

All of her Sunday was ‘coming down.’ She had talked long distance to her mom in Ohio, had feigned good cheer, and had felt even more desperate when they disconnected. She had read the comics section of the paper, usually an uplifting experience. Not today. She had exercised on the carpet, doing push-ups and deep knee bends. She was energized for only a few minutes, and it hit again.

A heavy depression consumed her Sunday in large chunks, a visceral displacement, much like that long ago summer camp experience … No! She must not dwell on that bittersweet summer camp.

She was lonely, sad, locked within a body and mind that would not push away the black oppression. The blue sky and sun that came to her through the big window in the living room added little relief.

So the day had gone. Sunday had gone.

It had been a mistake to stay in Phoenix. The city was too big, too unfriendly. She missed her family and friends in Steubenville, the familiar and the rote activities she had once seen as shackles.

The irony of the thought brought an obscure smile, and the wonderful memories flashed before her: barbecues in the expansive back yard, leaves on the big trees rustling in the wind; Saturday movie matinees, sitting, giggling, in the middle rows, throwing popcorn kernels at unsuspecting boys; the overnight stay-overs, pajama parties, pillow fights; long gossipy talks about boys long into the early morning; cheer leading at the basketball and football games, flirting with players on the sideline benches; homemade ice cream, cold watermelons, sweet and juicy, on summer Sundays …

On and on the memories flashed, and her black mood deepened, lingered like a soggy wet blanket that clung, would not be loosened and discarded. She was here in Phoenix, in a desert city swirling with an ugly gray smog, indifference, crime. She was in an urban sprawl of people from every conceivable cultural, ethnic, and racial mix. She was in a city that frightened her, a city that spawned a subliminal despair at her core of being. She did not like what she was becoming. This darkness of mood did not fit her personality. She was never one to mope around, to engage in self-pity. She tried always to avoid people like that. She was beginning to turn inward, to dislike herself.

Perhaps Phoenix was only the symptom and not the cause of this recent gloom. Perhaps there were other more subtle stirrings which she could not identify.

Strange, now, in remembering how the city had first excited her. Phoenix had been so different from anything she had known in Steubenville, like visiting one of those desert oases she had read about in school. She had found the southwest lore intriguing Sand entertaining. It had been like living out all the old fantasies from western movies she had seen with her family and friends.

There had been a visit to the Superstition Mountains where she had wanted to search for the legendary Lost Dutchman’s gold.

There had been the trip to Picacho Peak and to old Tucson where so many of the cowboy movies were made.

There had been old Mexico where she had been shocked by the poverty and the primitive conditions, but had somehow been drawn to its quaint and sleepy culture.

She had seen the spectacular Grand Canyon, stood above the majestic shadows and golden hues of its vertical walls, looked in awe across the vast space as the gentle winds touched her face.

She had decided to stay in Phoenix. There was so much to see, so much to do, in this lovely state. Her commitment to stay was nonetheless not quite one hundred per cent.

She had gotten a job and moved into her boyfriend’s apartment at Canyon Way. The Canyon Way Apartment complex was near the lovely Encanto Park, where she quickly made it a daily ritual to bike ride through its lush and placid grounds. Biking had become a therapy for her. It made her muscles relax and made her mind more malleable to positive thinking.

Her new life had been good for a few months. Then the city began to gnaw at her nerves. The transition had been a delicate and imprecise thing to analyze. There were murders, rapes, and robberies reported everyday on the television news. Crime seemed to be evenly distributed among Phoenix’s multicultural mix. There seemed to be anger everywhere, shown through simple senseless acts of vandalism, random mayhem, and overt discourtesies.

For a small Ohio town girl, the big city had created an inner turmoil. Where there had been a quiet pastoral peace, there was now a ‘salad bowl’ madness. It was getting to her, and she was getting to her boyfriend.

Vince had tried to lift the torpid mood he had seen developing over the past weeks but he had not been successful. Now he was getting impatient and cross with her. They had argued earlier in the morning and had settled into a silent separate space for sulking and guilt trips.

Around 7:00 on Sunday evening Della pulled her yellow Diamond Back mountain bike from its place on the small second floor apartment balcony, announced that she was going for a ride. It was a twenty-six inch man’s bike, but Della was a tall girl and preferred it to a woman’s bike.

Bad moods were rare for Della, but a bike ride through Encanto Park would help diminish her funk. The hard pumping on the pedals had a therapeutic effect on her. With the sweat of a strenuous bike ride would come a soothing calm. She needed something to break this ugly lethargy.

Della walked her bike down the metal and stone stairwell and out onto 19th Avenue. She turned south on 19th after leaving the apartment complex, still walking her bike. After a few blocks she left the sidewalk and entered Encanto Park. From a running start she got on her bike, pedaled vigorously southward and eastward, followed the outer edge of the Encanto Municipal Golf Course. She could hear water sounds from the lake and she felt the cool November wind on her face. She heard the insect noises of the night and thought again about her family and friends in Steubenville.

The night sky was unusually murky, and she wished the city would do something about the poor lighting along the bike path. There had been some talk from city officials that improvements were going to be made around the park but no action had been taken. Della had ridden her bike at night and she felt no sense of fear. The depth of darkness she encountered this night was simply an extension of her mood. She would ride it off.

She stood and pumped the pedals expending great effort, moving swiftly down the meandering path toward the main entrance to the park. When she reached the southernmost perimeter she turned and sped back north along the same path. The sweet smell of damp grass filled her nostrils, reminding her again of Steubenville and home.

She felt the sweat on her face and in the cleavage of her breasts. There was a rather pleasant chilling sensation throughout her body, and she was aware of a mood shift. Her mind was now clearing, and she thought of the wasteful negative stupor of the day. She was young and impatient. She must give her new life a chance. She had a whole world ahead of her. She must not get depressed and take it out on Vince. He really wanted her to be happy. She was eager to get back to the apartment and apologize.

It appeared she had the bike path all to herself. She relaxed. She sat and pedaled easily. Occasionally she just coasted. She was almost back to 19th Avenue. There was approximately one quarter mile left. She had covered nearly four miles in very fast time, and she was coming to the final turn before she hit a straightaway to 19th Avenue. She was just coming parallel on her right with a long row of eucalyptus trees. She heard again the sounds of the lake off to her left and the steady shriek of crickets.

She saw a black blur of movement about fifty yards ahead. Someone was standing next to a tall palm tree, or leaning against it. It appeared to be someone in bulky clothes, maybe someone wearing a large overcoat. That someone was stepping out onto the path in front of her …

There was a quick motion of arm and hand, and glittering particles, like fireflies, appeared in the darkness in front of her. There were flashing movements as the arms made arcing turns of bright, diamond-like specks of light.

Della instinctively steered the bike to the left side of the wide path, a nervous tingle spreading just below her skin. Serious adrenaline now raced through her and a fast rising fear gripped her. The fear lodged in her throat. The flashing movement was coming at her, and she could not turn the bike fast enough to avoid it. Like a video tape moving fast forward, it all happened so quickly. Her warm thoughts of making up with Vince had preoccupied her and slowed her reflexes. The fear and adrenaline gave way to frenzy, her mind splintering with delirious patterns. The panic coursed through her body like a hundred simultaneous bee stings, and the inner surge seized her in a near paralytic grip.

The first sweeping blow caught Della on the neck, lifting and holding her in midair suspension, presenting an odd spectral silhouette against the backdrop of night. Her bike rolled clumsily on and crashed a few feet ahead on the gravel border lining the path.

Incredibly, Della did not appear to die from the initial slash. With a sad reflexive tremble of body, she seemed to be fighting her attacker, like a weak, cumbersome puppet on a string. Her arms reached out to grab, to scratch, to hit, but it was only a slow grotesque enactment, born of an atavistic will to live. It was a primal instinct to survive, a mind-muscle-soul reaction to death.

The attacker was now above her, hovering like a dark cumulus cloud, a gray indefinite shape, spitting angry lightning bolts.

For Della Erlitz, death was most gruesome, but mercifully instantaneous.

The savagery on Della Erlitz body was not finished. Unmindful, uncaring, that death had already come, the killer continued to slash and to mutter incoherent obscenities. The maniacal perversion continued until the young woman’s head was totally severed. The killer then wrapped the head in a thin sheet of plastic and placed it in a tote bag. The body was further defiled by a monstrous craving the sane and civilized world could not hope to fathom.

Finally, the satanic craving was sated. The killer moved the body some seventy feet from the bike path in the direction of the eucalyptus trees. Della’s blood soaked clothes were cut away and piled next to the curled, stiff fingers of her left hand. The killer placed the tote bag over the handlebars of Della’s yellow bike and rode away.

The killer started north on the bike path, stopped to consider a thought, hesitated, then turned around and headed back south.

Passing near the headless body, the killer began to whistle a soft and strangely rhapsodic melody.

END OF EXCERPT.

Should you wish to read more of “Satan’s Song – A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 2), please visit my website/blog ‘Home Page’ and scroll down through my books. You will find ordering information after the book.

http://www.billyraychitwood.weebly.com (My main website – There is also a blog with all my posts, some book reviews, and bio info.)

Other links that might be of interest:

http://www.about.me/brchitwood (A brief bio sketch and further links.)

http://www.thefinalcurtain1.wordpress... (A blog site where you can follow all my posts)

Http://www.goo.gl/fuxUA (My site at ‘Independent Author Network’ which previews my books and gives links.)

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"The Brutus Gate - A Bailey Crane Mystery" (Book 3) - EXCERPT

Posted on December 21, 2012 by billyraychitwood

Here’s an excerpt from the third book in the Bailey Crane Mystery Series. Hope you enjoy it.

CHAPTER ONE

Just when you think you’ve got all systems going in harmonious sync, that’s the time old Chicken Little’s doomsday utterance settles a might too snugly into the conscience: The sky is falling!

Well, my sky was falling, literally, inexorably, and with undue haste! Not to mix metaphors, but the falling sky was becoming a raging hell!

The very large warehouse roof was collapsing bit by fiery bit, and the bad guys were winning.

The bad guys were also getting away.

“What a way to go,“ said to myself and to anyone around to listen. “Dumb! Stupid! XO#*!!!”

And I had not even done my Christmas shopping.

It was Thursday, December 24, mid-afternoon. The temperature outside the Old Guthrie Warehouse was seventy degrees. It was a cloudless, real charming Chamber of Commerce day in Phoenix, Arizona. Inside the warehouse, in my little corner, the temperature was rising and the smoke was a dark, dense, viscid blanket which seriously threatened my breathing.

Having some vague recall from my firefighting boot camp training, courtesy of the United States Navy, my body was flat on the floor where the air was less heavy and thick. My vision was impaired by the smoke but could see orange diffusion all around me, could hear frantic cracking sounds of bursting embers and swirling fire fury, and could feel the heat, stinging, becoming a palpable furnace against my face and hands.

The large pneumatic door by which I had entered this ill-fated building was not far away. Could reach it except for one minor, make it, major, problem. A huge piece of timber frame had me wedged face down between some old metal file cabinets and a huge, heavy wooden desk. It was a corner office in the aged warehouse, and, at my arrival some twenty minutes ago, it had seemed so incongruous in it setting. It didn’t matter a whole lot now. The fire would equalize all parts of the structure soon enough into a smoldering pile of ashes.

My boss, my buddy, Ross Milburn, had said it would be a simple matter, this visit to the Old Guthrie Warehouse. Just wanted to ask some questions, get some answers, about some nefarious shipments in the dark of night, and about some sort of big crime event about to happen. No big deal, he had said. One day, I would need to talk to Ross about his rather trivial disregard for my bones and his utter failure as a soothsayer.

Not so simple, it had turned out. A big deal, it had turned out. Someone, some evil SOB, someone or some ones, had set us up big time. Certainly, being the most seriously and immediately aggrieved, about to be consumed by uncaring flames, it appeared that some amount of complaining and whimpering was in order.

‘Oh, just stop with the whining and figure a way to get us out of this mess.’

My alter ego tried persistently to keep my thinking straight. And, of course, he was always spot on. Didn’t really matter at this point that we had been set up. Just, figure a way out. The only thing was, my strength was not sufficient to move the timber frame or my wedged body. My efforts were hopeless.

Earlier, when we arrived in our unmarked vehicle, the warehouse had a dark and abandoned look. Ross had gone to one end of the huge building to check a hazy light and what he thought were voices. I had gone straight to the warehouse office where, upon entering, had gotten blindsided by a two by four. At least, it felt like a two by four. On my hands and knees, head hanging loosely and all systems swaying surrealistically, heard loud, cursing, anxious voices retreating from the room.

Shortly after the bad people left the office, my befogged mind registered some gunshots and it appeared that Ross was calling to me from far away. Then, there came a thunderous, reverberating roar, slamming me roughly into the corner where that piece of timber frame nailed me helplessly to the floor. Soon, there was the sound of crackling fire, smoke, heat — and old Chicken Little.

The permutations of my Cherokee mind astounded me. Here in this conflagrant environment, I started thinking about Christmas presents and Jingle Bells. ‘Hey, beam up, Bailey Boy! You’re about to fry. Like, get some kind of desperate.’

Don’t get me wrong, knew that I was in trouble, but my brain was no doubt altered by the two by four whammy. All it wanted to do in those split seconds was vacillate wildly, acknowledging my impending death and wandering off into the past to revisit old memories, old loves, old dreams. The gray matter meandered those old trails until the intense heat got it back to the present and to thoughts of Janice and Bobby.

That’s when I felt the first really urgent pinpricks of fear and desperation. My first subliminal thought had been that this fire business was likely a temporary inconvenience, that Ross and his Arizona Rangers would be bursting in to get me out any minute. The harsh reality of that not happening was now becoming much more evident. The mind could spin crazily fast and illogically in moments of impending peril.

Strained all muscles in my body to the max and could not budge for any appreciable leverage. The panic that should have been there much sooner now came fully empowered with Satan’s rage.

This was it! The moment most people only obliquely confronted when the twilight years were upon them. The moment that fascinated the philosophers and the poets. The moment of no more options or delusive dithering. The moment of utter, stark, finality.

Death! Its black unctuous veil, heavy, gagging, suffocating, consuming and final, its heat a furious rhapsodic resonance. Death! My own death was now here, coming on the neuronal tap dancing tremors that was now my body.

So much for soliloquies. Here was heap big trouble for this southern white man with the Cherokee blood, heap big trouble right here, right now.

Struggled mightily, gagged, coughed, frantically reached maniacally within myself for air. Thoughts were trying to convey themselves to me, thoughts of sorrow, deeds undone, loves unfulfilled, all the roads untraveled; the body, the mind, a frenzied duo fighting out of sync in blind attempts to right themselves, both so near some great effulgence of truth, the ultimate enigma, the greatest mystery of a lifetime. … death. Would I know? After it was over, would I know? On some level, would I know? Would I know what death was about? Would I know and be alone in the knowledge? Would it matter? Would I go to a Hell? To a Heaven? Life’s lore had followed me to the great gate of the hereafter.

“I long for death, death longs for me. But it is dark to die, and, oh! I fear that I still wish to be!”

The lines came to me unbidden from a book by an old friend: Hell’s Music. The book was about two soldiers in a foxhole during the Korean War, seeking some ultimate clarity of their lives..

No more soliloquies for the moment.

Among gritty, dirty perspiration and the awesome heat, I could distinguish my own tears flowing down my cheeks. Then a smile, mildly sardonic and wistful, came to my face. “It’s okay to cry, Bailey Boy,” whispered to myself. The urgency to live, to struggle with the Grim Reaper, was leaving me. The incredible flush and quake to my body was like a wild, pulsing, out of control roller coaster about to plummet from its highest arc. My breathing was short, hot, gasps of sucking, bringing enormous thermal pressure to my lungs. My heart seemed to inflate within me, and I felt like a bloated Salvadore Dali figure on some primordial pastel plain.

Death had come for me. Could it truly be?

On some unclear periphery of consciousness came soft sounds of a great ripping and tearing, of things falling; feet, hands, moving to a kind of melodic, slow motion, far away squeal. My name was being spoken over and over in low guttural, foghorn slowness, like the languid flow of dream sequences portrayed in old forgotten movies. Hands reached for the timber frame beam amid grunts and groans; feet scraped on a raspy floor. All motion was torpid; faces in punctuated and sustained grimaces and worry. Sweeping, lazy sprays of water fell all about me. The black smoke began to dissipate. Patches of blue sky came sporadically through the thinning mist. Air became breathable.

There on the edge I saw Ross Milburn’s black shiny face, contorted with an etched fear, almost purplish in its sheen from the light play and the scattering smoke. Such a beautiful face! The face of my friend. Ross was sitting on some green and yellow contraption with two thick metal prongs sticking out of it. There were chunks of charred wood and wallboard hanging from the prongs. In my fevered brain it came to me that Ross had driven that alien metal monster into the outer wall of the warehouse office. He looked comical and out of place, his white shirt smudged with black soot and his tie loosened and thrown over his shoulder. He was beautiful. I thought about laughing but gagging and coughing stopped me.

The people lifting the wooden beam from my body were now recognizable. The men of the blue cloth, my comrades at the Phoenix Police Department, ‘The Arizona Rangers,’ had come to the rescue after all. A siren announced the arrival of fire engine and crew.

As the weight of the beam was hoisted above and away from my body, my breathing became more relaxed. It was indeed a most marvelous thing, this breathing. The now languid body no longer trembled with hysteria, but there was incipient soreness that beckoned for attention. My upper thighs and my kidneys were aching, but it was a subdued aching. Tentatively, I wriggled my toes within my shoes, then my feet and legs. My miraculous body seemed battered, bruised, otherwise nastily mistreated, but unbroken.

Managed a silly smile and a thumb’s up for the beautiful and glistening face of Ross Milburn. He smiled inanely back until he seemed to become aware of some fundamental Keystone Kop element in the quaint montage. Then he lifted himself from the seat of the strange machine and jumped to the ground. Ross stood with one foot inside the warehouse office and one foot on the asphalt outside the crumbled wall.

While trying to stand, a pain akin to electric shock shot through my pelvic area. Awkwardly, I fell back to the floor among all the broken wood, glass and plaster.

“Stay where you are, Bailey!” yelled Ross, noticing my efforts to rise and my subsequent discomfort. “You might have something broken or torn inside.” He came toward me, dodging the debris.

“Think I’m okay, Ross-man, just tried to get up a little too fast. Probably a misplaced hillbilly gene or hormone getting realigned.”

Hey, it was a small and weak attempt at humor. I was alive. A few minutes ago, I was … Okay, enough already on that death business. Later, maybe, all of this could be revisited.

“Here,” I said to Ross when he was standing over me, “give me your hands and pull me up gently.”

“Bailey, we should wait until …”

“C’mon, pull. Gently, as you go.”

Ross shook his head in feigned disgust and gave me his big handsome hams. With utmost care, his eyes watching mine, he lifted me to my feet. Shifting weight from foot to foot, tentatively, I put my hands on my love handles and turned my upper body slowly to one side, then to the other. My first step brought no elaborate pain so I took another. Then, another. Ross stayed by my side, his hands and arms out like he was ready to start shaping some clay statue.

“Hey, everything works, Ross-man. I’m okay. You okay? I heard gun shots. Right?”

“Yeah, you heard right. We winged two of them. We got ‘em in a cruiser, bleeding all over the seats, waiting for the EMT to take ‘em to St. Joe’s, then on to lock-up. The other two got away in an old blue Lincoln Town Car. Trent put out an APB on ‘em. They won’t get too far.” Trent Casals was another buddy, one of my partners at the PPD. “You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. A little sore but nothing’s broken. That was something else, Ross. It’s never been quite that way before. Thought maybe this could be the time for my big trip beyond. The mind behaves strangely when … Hey, you’ve been there. You don’t need to hear it from me. Let’s get out of this rubble.”

We walked some distance from the smoldering heap, away from the people and the noise. I sat in the PPD unmarked Chevy as Ross talked to Trent outside the cruiser holding the two bad guys. Trent broke away just long enough to come over and check me out.

Trent, a tall, lanky, double-jointed ex-basketball player, ugly and beautiful all in one, looked like a ‘Jack Palance’ or like an imagined ‘Ichabod Crane.’ He cared but he did not make a show of caring. He stayed for a few minutes, muttered some inanities, patted, gripped my shoulder, and walked back to the cruiser.

Sitting there, windows up in the car, watching the near noiseless activity around the warehouse rubble, a strange soporific calm engulfed me. Quiet, sensory messages of great meaning were being transmitted from somewhere deep in my soul, just out of my cranial grasp, the import of which was not as important as the knowledge of knowing they were being sent. The nonsensical aberration brought a smile to my face and I dropped my chin, closed my eyes, and shook my head gently in silent acknowledgment to the miracle of life and God’s inscrutable stage-fare.

The car door opened and slammed closed. Ross got behind the steering wheel and stared at my stupid face, the inane smile still in place.

“What, BC? What? The look? What transpires inside that looney bin scalp?”

“Just being me, Ross-man. You don’t want to know. Believe me, it’s better kept very far from you, very far from anyone. It’s a mind trip.” I stared back at Ross and saw the helpless expression come to his face, saw his eyes get all squint-like. “Hey, I’m okay,” I said quickly. “What’s with our two criminolos? They talking or what?”

Ross finally broke his stare. He put the key in the ignition and started the engine. “Yeah, they’re talking, but they’re talking pig Latin or some other derivative language I don’t know. You know them, I think. Art DeFilo and Eddie Briscoe?”

Nodded in the affirmative. Yes, the worthless goons were known to me.

Ross put the gear in reverse, carefully backed circuitously around three police cruisers with red lights and blue lights still flashing. “Art DeFilo, the short, squat one?” He glanced over at me for an up and down head shake. “He said one thing that baffles me. I mean, I got his words. I just don’t know what they necessarily mean …”

Ross drove forward, dodging people and debris, crossed the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks and headed toward Van Buren Avenue.

“Well, what did DeFilo say, big guy? Don’t keep me in the dark.”

The western sun felt hot against my nape, but not hot like the just recently known hot. This was enjoyable hot.

“He was a little sappy. Guess the bullet that passed through his shoulder had him swooning. He was mumbling a lot. But he said something peculiar, then got all red and sweaty after he said it, like he couldn’t believe he had said it …” Ross turned east onto Van Buren.

“Said WHAT? Crimminy, Rosser, you’re infuriating. What did the short, squat, Artie DeFilo say?”

He glanced quickly in my direction, then back at the road. With a serious and stern expression, and a lot of pseudo drama, Ross spoke: “He said an odd thing, especially weird for a small time hood. You know we’ve been expecting something big from Fistucci and his group. Well, what this creep said might just be tied in with that big event, whatever the hay it is.” He paused, glanced my way with a wrinkled brow expression.

“What, dip-hole? Tell me what he said or I’ll choke you right here on Van Buren.”

He chuckled for a moment, then put his serious face back on. “Okay, okay. What he said was, he said, and this it really way out, man, I kid you not …” He saw me about to erupt. “He said, ‘Beware the Brutus Gate.’”

Didn’t know whether to hit him or jump out of the car.

‘Beware the Brutus Gate.’

Cute. Very cute.

END OF EXCERPT – Please visit these links for information on ordering and/or synopses of other books in the Bailey Crane Mystery Series. Also check out the author’s other books: “Mama’s Madness” – “Butterflies And Jellybeans – A Love Story” – “The Cracked Mirror – Reflections Of An Appalachian Son” – “What Happens Next? – A Life’s True Tale”

Here are the links:

http://www.billyraychitwood.weebly.com and http://www.goo.gl/fuxUA and http://www.about.me/brchitwood and amazon.com (US – UK – Europe)
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"Murder In Pueblo Del Mar - A Bailey Crane Mystery" (Book 4) - EXCERPT

"Murder In Pueblo Del Mar - A Bailey Crane Mystery" (Book 4) is fiction inspired by a brutal murder some years ago of an Arizona mother and wife while on a family holiday in Rocky Point, Mexico. This story is important to me on two levels: the dynamic of the homicide itself with its salacious ingredients and all the publicity of the case; the other level of interest for me was my personal involvement with two protagonists in the story who owned a villa in Rocky Point. My wife and I visited them quite often, had our bridge weekends, our ATV junkets out on the desert dunes, our walks along the dusty roads, and thoroughly enjoyed our time together. Unfortunately, we watched alcohol destroy one of our friends and it gave me the sad opportunity to explore that dynamic along with the homicide --- it was difficult to watch the self-destruction and the effects it had on a man and woman we loved.


Here is the 'Prologue' from "Murder In Pueblo Del Mar - A Bailey Crane Mystery" (Book 4 of the five-book series)...


PROLOGUE

February 20, 1991

The beach along the southern edge of Las Conchas is not an ideal area for sun worshipers. It is more a coast line for the shell seekers and those who fancy tide pool ecology. The long east-west sandy stretch is littered mostly with all manner of shells, large and small, but there are also half buried broken bottles, ugly clumps of sea anemone, and dead smelly fish. Despite the litter it is a lovely span of sand and shell.

It is a Mexican beach whose long southern rim helps to frame the Sea of Cortez, known also as The Gulf of California. The sea is a large body of water separating the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland. It is bordered by the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, and Sinaloa. The sea funnels eventually into the Pacific Ocean to its south.

Las Conchas is a community of upscale real estate owned mostly by citizens of the United States and is part of the little fishing village of Pueblo Del Mar. More accurately, the real estate is uniquely owned by citizens of other countries in long-term renewable trusts, with generally the same rights and privileges as home owners in the United States.

Pueblo Del Mar is a poor man's Acapulco. Yet, few poor people own the beautiful white stucco and red clay roofed houses that comprise Las Conchas. The large, small, Mediterranean style Spanish villas, some posh and elegant, some modest and without frills, are set at water's edge or atop the grainy desert bluffs. The speckled array of red clay roofs and white stucco present a dazzling pattern of lovely sameness and charm.

The dusty caliche roads twist and turn past the somnolent houses and offer glorious views of the deep turquoise waters of the sea. The white cap chop gives up brilliant splinters of silver light in the afternoon sun.

The remoteness of Las Conchas is part of its lure to the gringos who own the villas. Here, telephones do not ring and newspapers are not delivered to the front doors. Time and events are put on hold. The lazy day routine is broken with sounds of surf and the growling drones of off-road all terrain vehicles, spewing dust clouds behind them. There are the shouts of old Mexican men and women hawking their wares of fresh blue shrimp and serapes among the grand seaside villas. There are strains of plaintive Mexican ballads from a distant sound system. There are the sometime horn wails of shrimp boat clusters off shore some three or five miles. There are, too, the sounds of children at play.

Mostly, it is the stillness that brings magic to the moments in Las Conchas. It is the shared knowledge of its citizens that nothing, not commerce, not agendas or itineraries, can break the special spell that is Las Conchas. It is not so much a geographical place as it is a soulful sublimity. The sky and the sun join the land and the sea in a way that bring the senses to their keenest edge. The smell of the sea air, barbecues, re-fried beans and cooking fat, all join to make the uniqueness of Las Conchas.

*****

One man discovered the magic of Las Conchas when he was still young enough to declare it his own. Robert Geraint had spent much of his adult life in the sleepy fishing village of Pueblo Del Mar. He had first come as a young father and husband some fifty years ago. In some magical way the land, sea, and its people formed the special bonding that would last his lifetime. Though Phoenix, Arizona would be his domicile of citizenship, he adopted Pueblo Del Mar as his domicile of soul.

His love for Pueblo Del Mar became more than a weekend aberration from his accounting business. With the tragic, soul scarring, and untimely death of his daughter, Niki, the village became a refuge of sorts, a place that could not bring forgetfulness but could diminish the sharp edge of grief.

When the entrepreneurial efforts of a few people brought Las Conchas to reality, Bob Geraint built one of the first villas along the strand of sea that would be called the 'first estuary.' His villa was designed and built by a local Mexican architect of some celebrity and would be subtly copied by many who came later. The house would be copied to some extent but never duplicated.

The house Robert and his beloved Deena erected was to become a landmark in the community. Because of her love for butterflies and the lonesome peal of ship bells, Deena called the villa “La Casa de las Campanas y Mariposas,' the house of Bells and Butterflies.

The lovely and distinctive villa was built with three connecting sections with tower-like centers. The main section in the middle of the dwelling was the great room. It was built around the focal point, the high round turret, heavy beamed, opening in the ceiling. The floors were of white octagonal shaped Mexican tile with blue bell patterns. The kitchen counters, back-splash, bath counters, and shower wall tiles were specially made of white high gloss tile pieces with randomly placed blue bells and butterflies. On the western end of the house was the master bedroom, on the same level as the great room, with another center tower in the roof. On the elevated eastern end were two guest bedrooms, again, with the tower projections in the roof. All rooms had beehives fireplaces surrounded by the white tile, blue bell, butterfly patterns.

A wide sweeping tiled veranda ran the entire back length of the house, with stairs leading down at the center to a built-in barbeque and on, ultimately, down to the sea. Off the eastern side of the veranda, there were stairs leading up to a separate private terrace area for the guest bedrooms. All around the house in the sandy soil Deena had planted and nurtured her ice plants and sundry hedge and flowers, creating a profusion of rich green and vivid colors

It was a showcase home and it immediately became a point of delineation in giving directions to visitors of the area: A common directive was, 'It's near the house of Bells and Butterflies.'

Robert Geraint had seen through the years the first estuary section developed to its predicted and permitted numbers until the second and third estuary sections had opened to satisfy the continuing hot demands for housing. Still, with all the growth, Las Conchas maintained its distinctive aura, its special 'sublimity.'

Robert and Deena Geraint had recently retired full time to 'La Casa de las Campanas y Mariposas' and had become active members in the Las Conchas Homeowners Association. A manned security gate into the community was approved and started up the same year Robert and Deena arrived as full time residents. Assessments rose steadily to keep up with the varied needs and growing necessities. Property values continued upward and Las Conchas thrived and prospered.

Robert Geraint became the man to whom the citizens of the community turned when there were problems and when advice was sought on any conceivable matter. His was the quiet and thoughtful mind that people trusted in counsel. His was the strength of body and hard muscle when someone needed a hand in moving something big, like, a car stuck in the desert sand. His was the humble personality and genuine demeanor that drew people to him, that brought him the unsought praise and reputation that embarrassed him. Robert knew his community, its good and its bad elements. Like all communities there were plenty of both.

In the early evening on Friday a terrible series of screams filled the peaceful landscape of Las Conchas. Bob Geraint was at the barbeque turning his steaks when the first scream broke his placid mood, broke the musical spell of a Placido Domingo aria coming from the tape system in the great room. Scurry, Bob's faithful golden retriever, rose from his spot near the barbecue and looked anxiously at his master. The dog's tail was tucked between his legs, and a soft whine turned into a low growl.

There was something about the scream that tore into Bob's consciousness. It was like a door slamming shut from a harsh gust of wind. The scream was a reverberant and dissonant acknowledgment of some awful event, not so much a startled response as it was a total black acquiescence to something evil and ordained. It was a scream unlike many others Bob Geraint had heard in all his years, a scream that would remain forever in his memory.

Then, there came a second and third scream, startling successions of the first, horribly quaking things, tinged with a demonic terror, a madness, that conveyed hideous truths.

Deena appeared at the screen of the great room door. “What was that?” she asked incredulously.

“Don't know,” Bob answered with a worried brow.

Without saying more they stood and listened.

Moments later the quietness returned to Las Conchas. A dog barked somewhere down the dusty road. Scurry returned the bark with one of his own. A soft zephyr caressed the wild brush out on the expansive sand beyond the barbeque. The bright orange sun lay low on the Sea of Cortez over towards Baja California Norte. Placido Domingo still sang a plaintive song in the great room of 'Bells and Butterflies,' muted by distance but still evocative and vaguely compelling.

Bob Geraint stood unsettled and wary by the barbeque, steak tongs hanging loosely from his right hand. He looked eastward toward the area from whence the screams had come. His faithful Scurry brushed nervously against his master's leg, waiting. A few moments had passed since the last scream. There came a sound of a car engine, revving, moving. Bob placed the tongs on the tile sidebar of the barbeque and moved tentatively toward the road in front of his villa.

“Where are you going?” Deena asked, the question necessitated by a vague fear.

“Gotta take a look. Sounded like someone in trouble. Scurry, you stay here with mom.”

The dog whined but obeyed.

“Bob! Be careful!” Deena yelled after him.

Bob walked north along the eastern side of the villa, Deena's beautiful bougainvillea and ice plant lining the entire stretch of white stucco. At the ATV shed off the front of the house Bob turned and walked east down the road. He walked slowly, scanning carefully both sides of the road. He passed other villas along the road but he detected no movements or lights. He thought idly that his neighbors were perhaps not coming down from Phoenix this weekend. The road was now in the final pale phase of sunlight and further east, some five hundred feet, Bob could see the small sand dune park area where kids raced their ATVs around a use-worn track. The area now looked remotely eerie in its mauve and dark contrast from the dissipating sun. The brush was wind-blown bare, and the sand dunes looked like soft smooth scoops of chocolate ice cream.

At a bend the road turned easily north and east again. Here, on the northern edge of the road, there were large and small villas that were mostly furnished rentals, villas trust-owned by absentee landlords in Phoenix and Tucson. Bob now walked anxiously and warily along this row of villas. He suspected that this had been the area of the screams. No lights shone in any of the houses and no cars were parked out front.

Bob remembered the car noise minutes before and now looked off to the north, east, and south, to see if there were any vehicles traveling the dirt lanes leading into and out of Las Conchas. He saw no movement on the roads but he did see a dust flow along the road back to the west, toward the marine museum and the old whale bone skeleton near its entrance.

Then Bob noticed that a front door was ajar at one of the smaller villas along the north side of the road. It was the villa being rented as a vacation house by the Blalocks. He stopped, cocked his ears in a concentrated effort to hear sounds, debated within himself his next course of action, and cautiously moved left from the road down a stone edged walkway toward the open door.

Bob was a big man with a ruggedly handsome, angular, face. He was deeply tanned by the Sonoran sun and his grayish white hair lay in tight distinguished neatness. He was six foot two, two hundred thirty pounds, with huge arms and hands. One of those hard and calloused hands now reached uncertainly toward the open door of the quiet villa.

Before touching the door knob, he called out, “Is anyone here? Hello! Anybody home?”

Then, louder, “Hello! Hello! Anybody home?”

He held the knob of the front door with his left hand and banged its center with his right fist.

After several raps and more calling out, he pushed the front door inward and warily entered, his body coiled and ready for any sudden surprises.

The flooring of the inside entry area was a high polished rust-red Mexican tile. The tile extended left into a living room area that was small and at the moment cluttered with overturned furniture.

The overturned furniture caused him pause. Again, he called out, “Anybody here? Hello! Hello!”

There was no response.

He tentatively passed through a small kitchen where cabinet doors were opened and broken dishes littered the floor. He moved slowly, on down a dark hallway, hesitated at a doorway, flicked a switch, and peered into a bathroom. He sensed the aroma of soap on the air and noticed a damp limpid towel on a wall hook. Water beads lay on the tiled floor of the shower and in the beige basin bowl below a mirrored medicine cabinet.

Growing more wary he turned off the bathroom light and moved further down the hallway. He called out again but there was no response.

Two doors on the right of the hallway opened onto small guest bedrooms. In both bedrooms Bob found the beds in disarray and some children clothing hung on round wooden poles in open closet niches. More clothes were strewn along the floor, and opened luggage sat before each of the open closets. Drawers had been pulled from the small bed tables and lay upended in the corner of the room.

The door on the left side of the hallway led to the master bedroom. Like the front entry, this door also stood ajar.

Again, he called out. There was no response.

Bob listened for a moment at the partially opened door. Then he thought he heard the low meowing sound of a cat coming from the room, muffled but distinguishable.

Then, an odor he had only peripherally noticed upon entering now settled pungently upon the air. It was a familiar smell and he knew that it was coming from the room before him.

His mind began to play out possible scenarios. He thought he recognized the odor. He had smelled before its somber septic essence. A truth suddenly hit him, a truth as inexorable as any truth he had ever known.

Mentally alert, not touching the door handle with his fingers, Bob reached for the upper center of the wood and pushed inwardly with his knuckles. As the door opened the odor became nauseatingly strong. He covered his mouth and nose with his large left hand and walked all the way into the room.

Although he had an ominous expectation of what he would find, he could not have prepared himself for the scene in front of him, six feet from the door.

Bob Geraint tightly closed his eyes but he could still see the woman sprawled sideways across the king size bed, deep bloody indentations along her hairline, her right hand palm upward as though pitifully pleading for a mercy denied her. The left arm and hand, at an odd limp angle, rested on a naked breast. The chest was punctured savagely, oozing the dark red viscid juices that had been her life.

Bob opened his eyes and forced himself to view more specifics of the scene.

The woman's right temple had a deep puncture slit, blood still flowing slowly from its opening. The throat was slashed and laid open by numerous thrusts from something keenly edged and maniacally wielded. Her mouth was a sad gaping rictus, and the white of her eyes were visible through partially closed lids. The terrycloth bathrobe she had been wearing was open at the front, soaked in blood, splayed out in wild angles all around her mutilated body. Blood splatters were on the ivory semigloss wall at the head of the bed, over the tiled floor, and as far away as the glass sliding doors leading to a small outside patio.

Bob Geraint gagged, fought back a wave of nausea, and tightened the grip of his hand over his nose and mouth. For a long moment he could not blink or close his eyes. They remained wide and fixed on the dead woman in front of him.

Finally he lowered his head and saw that he was standing near several globules of bright red blood.

He noticed a sudden movement to his left. In a low, slow moving crouch, a lovely slate blue cat moved from beneath the big bed. At the door, the cat swiftly disappeared down the dark hallway.

Bob Geraint hurried, too, from the death scene and from the dark house. Outside he retched and hungrily sought the cool air from the now dark Sea of Cortez. He saw through the thin beginning veil of night Deena and Scurry approaching. When Deena saw him bent over by the roadside she rushed to his side.

After a time they walked home, got in their car and drove quickly to the security gate some three miles away. Bob informed Antonio Aguilar of the grisly discovery. Antonio called the police. Bob took Deena and Scurry home and returned to meet Antonio at the Blalock house.

As Antonio and Bob stood talking out front, awaiting the police, Al Blalock and his three children pulled up in the family car. The man and his kids wore worried expressions, and Antonio tried to prevent them from entering the house. Al Blalock pulled from Antonio's grasp and dashed into the house, the kids running after him.

Then, there came more screams, sad and pitiful from the children, mixed with astonished anguish and involuntary gasps for breath. Blalock and the kids soon emerged from the death house and huddled alongside Bob and Antonio.

The siren sounds came loudly, announcing the arrival of the police. There were questions of Bob and Antonio, of Al Blalock, and the police finally entered the house to examine the murder scene.

The police were still in the house gathering what evidence might be available to them long after Bob walked back to 'Bells and Butterflies.' Outside his front arched entrance, Bob decided he needed more walking.

He slowly strolled along the dry dusty lanes for a time, trying to rid his mind of the thoughts churning there. At some point he thought of Deena. She would be worried, and, as he considered this thought, he found himself again at his arched entry way. He was momentarily stunned with the simple fact that he had returned to 'Bells and Butterflies' and did not recall the routes he had taken or the duration of his walk.

Inside the house, he and Deena nibbled at some food, made small talk, but could not talk about the screams and the brutal murder just a few doors away. They tried to watch a movie tape but could not stay interested. Finally, with a tacit acknowledgment, they went to bed.

In bed, thoughts came that he most feared. There had been another death many years ago, the death of his daughter, Niki. A mindless drunk driver had smashed into the family car and into every succeeding day and night of his life. Bob had been the one driving the family car, on an errand that could have waited. Niki had gone along for the ride, to be with her daddy.

His was an accountant's mind, but he could not post on his ledgers the brutal reality of what he had just seen, the screams he had heard earlier. He could not turn off the many emotions he was feeling, of the Blalock woman --- of Niki and her brief terrified scream just before the drunk driver would end her life and change her father's life forever.

Deep into the night, Bob Geraint lay sleepless next to Deena on his king size waterbed, afraid of sleep, more afraid of thought. Neither could he void the horrible screams of the Blalock woman, nor could he divorce those from his own child's last soulful wail before death took her from him.

The brutal death of Kathleen Blalock, all the blood, had brought back the memories, memories he wanted not to face.

Bob Geraint lay there in a sleepless, suffocating void, familiar tears falling down his timeworn and craggy face. Familiar inner demons were at their work.

Scurry lay on the floor next to the bed, a soft whine emanating from deep within his throat, feeling the agony that griped his master's soul.

END OF EXCERPT. For more information on this book, go to the author's website/blog: http://www.billyraychitwood.weebly.com - Scan the 'Home' page for synopses of other books by Billy Ray Chitwood and ordering sites for kindle, print, and other e-book formats.
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"A Soul Defiled - A Bailey Crane Mystery" (Book 5) - EXCERPT

“A Soul Defiled – A Bailey Crane Mystery” is the fifth and final book in the ‘Bailey Crane Mystery Series’ – a relatively short book written on the Sea of Cortez. As I lazily and leisurely lolled on my condo deck watching the sailboats, jet skis, yachts, and all the diversions upon the sea, I saw a Mexican beach hawker of lovely serapes walking toward the old port of Rocky Point. It was late in the afternoon, and the hawker seemed weary from his day’s labors along Sandy Beach. Walking all day up and down the long stretch of beach with a heavy load of serapes draped over his shoulder had taken its toll. My guess was that he was making his final trek toward home as the sun was closing on the western horizon. He would occasionally stop by a couple or a group sunbathing on the sand to present his wares, and, disappointed with no sale, wander wearily onward toward the port and home.

My mind would not let go the thoughts on this common daily scene along the lovely coastline, and the thoughts extended themselves into Book 5 of the Bailey Crane Series. Here then is an excerpt from “A Soul Defiled – A Bailey Crane Mystery.”

EXCERPT


Prologue

Along the coast of Pueblo del Mar the tide was out. Volcanic rock splotches of tide pools were visible between the beach, sand bars, and cobalt sea. Creeping wider up the distant horizon to meet the blue sky was a streak of soft mauve elegance, reaching west to east as far as the eye could see. The sun was setting out around the bend near Bahia del Pelicano. There were sea gulls at water’s edge, some standing in stoic poses, others airborne, diving for food just off the sand bars. Minus a rare storm day, it was a scene recorded each day on this majestic stretch of beach on The Sea of Cortez.

Along the shell strewn sandy beach a lone hawker was making his final stroll east toward the old port. There was weariness in his strides, his bronze lined face a sheen of sweat. The unsold colorful serapes were draped over his left shoulder and his downcast eyes only surveyed the short space in front of him. A dog barked and some children squealed in a predominantly American inhabited resort just seventy-five yards north of the hawker’s path, giving him a momentary pause in his steady gait. He thought of his grandchildren, about their play area in the cluttered space of dust, gravel, and junk behind his sheet metal shanty. They, like their fathers and mothers before them, would never know the resort life. In his brief thoughts it did not matter. His family led a simple and meager existence but they were happy. There was love and there was God. The daily routines had basic rituals and they found humble joy and pleasure in their sharing.

Only a few people now hovered over the tide pools to check out a hermit crab, a baby squid, or a dead sting ray, to collect sea glass and an occasional shell. These were people the hawker had already approached more than once, and he no longer cared so much about a possible sale. Dinero controlled much of his life lately, but the day had been long. He only wanted to be home, to share his meager earnings of the day with family and to sip a cerveza.

When he fell to the sand on his knees Fernando Cervantes thought for a brief moment he had gone down from a sharp chest cramp. His unsold serapes were involuntarily flung outward onto the beach. He felt liquid flowing through his fingers, saw the liquid when he pulled his hand from his left rib cage. He saw that it was his blood. As he collapsed on his side in the sand, his life presented itself to him in a few gasping breaths. As he slowly rolled onto his back, his half-closed eyes looked upward toward a diminishing blue sky. There was so much he wanted to tell Father Umberto, so much he yet wished to share with his family, but all he could weakly mutter in his last moment was, “Mi Dios, por favor me perdona para he pecado!

Clusters of sea gulls gathered near the lifeless body of Fernando Cervantes, indifferent, unimpeded in their ageless habits.

The colors of sunset cast an eerie surreal hue on the beach tableau.



Chapter One

“It’s so good to be back. Does it get any better than this?” in the fog of memory, I wondered how many times this question had been muttered by me.

“Well, Bailey-dear, guess we could be sitting and sipping on a veranda in Malibu. But it wouldn’t be the same, somehow … too phony, maybe, and too far outside our reality. No, my short answer, it does not get any better than this.” Wendy could always add a special dimension to one of my comments.

We smiled and watched some shrimp boats returning to the old port after a night of dip netting. It was another cloudless soft blue day, the sun deliciously warm. For ‘sun people’ Pueblo del Mar was near perfect. There was seldom a gray day, rarely any rain. Most of the time there was a prevailing breeze, and, at times, some strong winds. The magnificent quality of this particular morning was the norm for Pueblo del Mar, the quality that made the decision easy for us to buy our lovely condo here on the Sea of Cortez. Not an expert by any stretch, but the gorgeous weather must have something to do with the latitude and longitude of this area of Mexico.

My name is Bailey Crane, once a business owner and part-time ‘crime fighter’ with the Phoenix, Arizona, Police Department. The ‘crime fighter’ label is used in an attempt to bolster my aging ego. Still active, still feeling young and vital, the body has lost a few vital cells, but I’m still sweating out the toxins with daily workouts, still carry a six foot frame and weigh just south of two hundred pounds. There are some hitches in my ‘getiup,’ some sags here and there, but I’ve got my hair, my teeth, and my totally unbiased wife tells me I still have the good looks of that ‘Sound of Music’ guy, Christopher Plummer. Do I have a great support system, or what!

My activities have slowed considerably in semi-retirement. Wendy, my bride, a former police lady herself, decided — well, we decided — that it was time to ease back the throttle and smell some of those proverbial roses. A good choice! We’ve traveled, done cruises, and have thoroughly enjoyed life in the slow lane. Is my previous life missed? Truth is, it is missed, which might be quite natural, like, any vocational interest that gets in the blood. It is not missed enough to ever consider going back. Wendy and I have created a life style that is very comfortable. Having sold my business, with some IRA’s, and modest investments, we are able to live reasonably well.

Wendy still carries in body and soul all the beauty that drew me to her twenty odd years ago. There is still no gray in her tresses, and her face has no wrinkles … except for the slight lines at the corner of her eyes, which only adds to her Andie McDowell loveliness. And, guess what? I still sneak my peaks at her curves when she disrobes in the evening and dons her night gown or pajamas. Wendy came along when my personal life was in crisis, a gift from God. The one sure and unalterable truth is that our bond, our love, will last our lifetimes and, with faithful assurance, into eternity.

“Anything particular you want to do today, dear lady?” The question was asked dutifully and with her negative response hopefully anticipated. My desire was to stay clad in my red swim trunks, my exotic shirt, and thongs.

“Absolutely nothing,” Wendy dipped her head and gave me a smile. “You would pout all day if I had an agenda for you.” She paused, got up to clear the patio table. “You want more tea? More cereal, toast, anything?”

“I’m good. Let’s just sit and soak up this sea and sun for awhile. Maybe we’ll go poolside later or wander the beach … you can collect some sea glass and shells. Maybe we’ll find an old Spanish doubloon … as if!” Repositioning my swivel chair, placing my feet on the deck railing, I raised my empty cup. “On second thought, I’ll have another chamomile while you’re up.”

A few hours later, after a swim and beach walk, we were back on our deck. Wendy was reading while I dozed on the chaise lounge.

The kitchen telephone ringing through the screen door broke into my repose. Wendy marked her book and went inside to answer the call. “It’s Tom Horner, for you,” she yelled.

Tom Horner was a longtime friend and he was on the Board of our Mar y Sol Home Owners Association.

Dulled by the slumber time and the day’s laziness, I rose slowly and went inside.

“What’s up, Tom?” seating myself at the kitchen table.

“Hi, Bailey. When did you get in?” Tom’s voice had a deep resonant quality.

“Late yesterday afternoon.”

“Good trip down?”

“Traffic was light, smooth sailing.”

“Going to be here for awhile this visit?” Tom seemed to be dancing around the reason for his call.

“Wendy and I are here for a long stay. There is nothing on our calendar. Is there a problem, Tom?”

“Are you busy right now, Bailey?’”

“Just a little sweaty from the sun and beach. You want to visit?”

“Yes, if it’s good for you. Can you meet me at Tinker’s in fifteen minutes? I’ll buy you a beer, and you can come as you are.”

“Can’t we visit here?” Tinkers was a short walk of five minutes, but, still…

“We can, but it would be better if we talked off premises.”

Tom now had my interest. Something very newsworthy was in the air. “See you in fifteen!”

Changing from thongs to tennies I told Wendy of the short, cryptic phone conversation and left. Since Wendy had not been mentioned in the invitation, she was just as glad to have some time for chores in our neglected condo unit.

Tom Horner was an old friend and likely the biggest reason we had chosen Mar y Sol as our seaside retirement site. Tom and wife Gladys had moved to Pueblo del Mar five years ago and had been among the first residents in Mar y Sol. They had invited us down on several occasions, and we very quickly determined that this was where we wanted to be at some point in time. That point in time had come one year ago. Wendy and I were now considering full time residency. When the American developers had completed the condo project and all units were sold, an HOA board was established to represent the owners’ interests. Tom had been a unanimous choice for president.

The big burly guy was sitting at a small corner table when I arrived at Tinkers. Dressed a bit more formally, Tom wore pale blue Bermudas and a gold colored button-down shirt. His deeply tanned face and body was in sharp contrast with his recently groomed white hair. Although aging had brought a more rotund torso, he was still a handsome guy. He had always reminded me of Tom Selleck, one of my favorite actors.

Tom stood. We gave ‘buddy hugs,’ and sat. A frosty Corona was immediately placed in front of me.

Tinkers was a local ex-pat bar and eatery, owned and operated by Tinker Davidson, a former US auto racer of some notoriety. The restaurant and lounge sat between two high-rise condo developments about one hundred yards from the sea. The outside of the rectangular building was constructed of stone and stucco, with a thatched roof. No one could miss the place with its big vertical lettered sign just off the entrance. Inside, there was an understated ambiance, with a cozy corner mahogany bar with subdued lighting and comfortable seating, designed for the nostalgic, romantic souls. The back bar had a beautiful wall-length smoked mirror with gold edging, and the enticing area was pleasantly set apart from the spacious dining room with three large pots of exotic plants. Tinker had put a lot of thought in the design, and his place was one of the most popular in Pueblo del Mar for both the ex-pats and the locals.

“You’re looking fit, Tommy. How’s Gladys?” We were sitting next to one of those big potted plants.

“She’s good, Bailey. We’re both good. Back at you: you’re looking fit as well. Wendy sounded chipper on the phone. She okay?” My good friend had that aura about him. Something was eating at him big time.

“Yeah, she’s fine …” I downed some Corona. “Okay, Tom, enough of our soft shoe. What’s going on, big guy?”

“You heard anything about anything?” he asked.

“Just got here, buddy. I know nada. Give!”

There was some soft and soothing Spanish guitar music coming from a CD in the bar area. Tom glanced around the room. There were a few scattered patrons seated some distance away from us. They would not be able to hear our conversation. Tom could talk without worry. My interest was now at a high level.

“It’s a hell of a way to greet you back, pal, but I’ve got to talk to somebody outside the Mar y Sol inner circle. So, sorry about that.” Tom took a long draw from his own Corona bottle and continued. “Mar y Sol has some problems, Bailey. You know Mitchell Probst, our HOA treasurer?”

“Yeah, I know him. Not well, but I’ve seen him around. He’s got one of the beach villas.”

“Well, he’s a big part of our problem. He was found murdered in his beach villa this morning. The body of a serape hawker was found on the beach late yesterday afternoon, just a few yards from Mitchell’s villa …”

“Jesus! Wendy and I show up and strange karma tags along. You said, ‘a big part of our problem.’ There’s more? Don’t know if I’m ready for this my first day back to ‘Pueblo.’”

“I know, it’s a bummer … sorry, pal. We’ve got some issues on the HOA board. There are things not adding up. The accounting system is fouled up and there’s money we can’t locate, apparently some missing ledgers. Mitchell was not the most popular board member and he had been acting strange the last few days before his murder. Look, I know the economy is bad; our tourist business has fallen off; the media has been unfair to us. But, even with all that, there is something going on that is not right. And, Bailey, I’m telling you even if you wouldn’t ask: I have absolutely no idea what’s going on. Are we being embezzled? Is there corruption on the board? Was Mitchell stealing from us? Or, did he discover something that got him killed? Are the murders of Mitchell and the hawker connected? Did a stray bullet kill the hawker? Your police chief friend, Ernie, has been here with his investigators and is working the case. He has this information I’m giving you. Does he know you’re in town?”

“No, don’t believe so … I haven’t contacted him yet. He knew we were coming this week.”

Ernesto Villar was the police chief of Pueblo del Mar. We had become good friends years ago while working together on an Arizona/Mexico connected case. We had maintained an ongoing relationship, visiting while on our trips to ‘Pueblo,’ via quick phone calls just to say hello and chat, and via correspondence on police-related matters.

“It’s a question I’m reluctant to ask, Bailey, but can you help me out? Maybe, do a little low-key prowling and prying? I want no strain on our friendship, but I’m at a loss on who to trust and with whom to talk. If I’m asking too much just tell me and that’ll be the end of it. There is nothing that will ever impair our friendship.” His mellow voice carried with it sincerity and desperation.

How could I turn down such a lovable Selleck-type?

“Hey, you’re my buddy! Gotta help if I can. I’ll squeeze it in between the fun and sun, I’m a bit rusty, Tommy, but I’ll do what I can. You can fill me in on how the HOA works. It’s all ‘Greek’ to me. Maybe Ernie has some answers. I’ll talk to him right away. You’ll need to supply me with names, files, maybe, and other information as needed. Is there anything else more specific you can tell me? The other board members? Are they all here at the moment?”

Tom thought for a moment. “No, but they will all be here in two days. There’s a board meeting on Saturday. Jarrett Egan, Peter and Jan Simpson, and I are the only full-time board member residents. Mitchell was full-time. The other members get down usually on a monthly basis, or, even, less frequently. You know them all, but I’ll give you their vitae. Specifics? Just don’t have any specifics, Bailey. Guess I’ve been too lax, but, generally, other than tenants bitching and moaning about one thing or another, answering some general management questions, there’s just not a lot of my involvement. Mitchell carried most of the load, being the man who handled the money. We all monitored management and maintenance as much as possible, and we had confidence in our management. All seemed to be going smoothly. Our general manager, Jimmy Millard … you know him — is a really pleasant guy but he can be a bit rigid and pushy at times. The board has had no big problems with him. I’m basically clueless, Bailey, feeling somewhat idiotic about this whole thing.” Tom shrugged and downed more cerveza.

“Okay, I’ll get a running start at this tomorrow. For now, try to relax. We will have one more of these frosty goodies, go home to our ladies, and, we can come back here for dinner … if you and Gladys are free.”

Tom’s demeanor changed instantly. He sighed, smiled, and became the guy with whom I was accustomed. Had we been standing he would have grabbed me in a bear hug.


END OF EXCERPT. For further information on this title, additional books in the ‘Bailey Crane Mystery Series’ and other novels by this author, please go to his website/blog: http://www.billyraychitwood.weebly.com and scan the ‘Home’ page. For more author comments, please go to: http://about.me/brchitwood
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Published on December 29, 2012 12:48 Tags: arizona, bailey-crane-mysteries, colorado, crime, detective, kidnapping, mexico, murder, mystery, robbery, suspense

"The Candlestick Killer" - A short story by 4 Authors in 4 Parts

As promised last week, here in its entirety are Parts 1-4 of “The Candlestick Killer” by Eden Baylee (@edenbaylee on twitter), John Dolan (@JohnDolanAuthor), Billy Ray Chitwood (@brchitwood on twitter), and Diane Strong (@DianeIStrong on twitter), a short story which is a regular part of Cameron Gaggiepy’s ‘The Story Circle’ blog (@camerongarriepy on twitter). Again, it has been a great pleasure for me to participate in this project and my sincere thanks and good wishes go to my author buddies here. Eden started us off in the story, gave us our title, “The Candlestick Killer,” and passed Part 2 on to John Dolan. John passed Part 3 on to me. I passed the Part 4 finale on to Diane. It is our hope that you will enjoy our little story and perhaps visit us at twitter and our blogs. Those blog sites and amazon sites are listed at the end of the story.

“The Candlestick Killer”

PART ONE (by Eden Baylee)

I gazed into pale blue eyes framed by ruddy, pockmarked skin. His smile revealed a missing front tooth. I wrinkled my nose as an acrid smell drifted toward me. Alcohol mixed with rotting teeth. Wonderful.

“Howdy, Missy. You’re a sight for sore eyes.”

I inhaled through my mouth and sucked in my stomach, afraid bile might force itself up my throat. How many times had he used that line before? “I’m sorry,” I said, “but I can’t say the same for you.” A steely calm draped itself over me, but inside, I was shaking. I pressed my hands against my thighs to steady myself.

His look of shock seemed genuine. For a moment, I thought I had blown it, but then I saw the corners of his eyes wrinkle as he burst into raucous laughter.

“Ooh, you’re a feisty one. I like that!” He snatched a chair from an adjacent table. Twirling it around as if he were a matador fending off a bull, he dropped the chair in front me and sat down with a heavy thud.

I pretended to stave off disdain, but it was actually relief I felt. The plan was working; the next steps would be crucial. He liked women who were hard to get, that much I knew, but it was a fine line between keeping him interested and turning him off. “He’s a charmer,” my boss had said. “We need to figure out what he’s telling these women, how he persuades them to bring him home. We know it’s not his looks.”

No question about that. In person, the bastard looked more disgusting than the few out-of-focus pictures I’d seen of him. The lead we had been waiting for came after his last victim called 9-1-1 just before she died. She only managed to utter two words —“Ugly Motherfucker.” He’d left her in a pool of blood after cracking her skull with a brass candlestick. It took a week to retrace her every step, where she’d been, who she’d come in contact with.
A spree of killings over the past three months had left the women of New York City in a state of panic. Aside from living alone, the victims had little in common with one another. They came from varied economic backgrounds, worked different jobs, and shared no social connections. I received the case after the mayor demanded an arrest be made to allay the growing hysteria. Crimes against women were my specialty, but this reeked of a serial killing—not my specialty. I had little choice in the matter though. We’d caught a break. I sat face to face with the first suspect of the case the press now called “The Candlestick Killer.”

He was an ugly motherfucker, all right. I braced myself to walk the flirtation tightrope with him, wondering how the hell he had convinced eight women to invite him into their homes and ultimately to their deaths.

PART TWO (by John Dolan)



Manfred Bauer took a sip of beer and leaned forward slightly towards the woman sitting opposite him in the bar.He
continued to mouth platitudes while his real attention focused on the emotions she was concealing behind her confident exterior. The tendrils of his consciousness rippled out across the table which divided them and began slowly to insinuate themselves into her mind.



“I haven’t seen you in here before,” he said. “I’m sure I would have remembered. My name is Manfred, by the way.” His extended awareness probed into her raw subconscious, gently caressing the texture of her feelings. Ah! There it was … revulsion. The expected revulsion. But there was something else. Something with an edge to it. It felt like … fear.



“I’m Joy.”



“You certainly are,” he smiled and ordered drinks for them both from a harassed waitress.



Manfred Bauer had a gift. It was a talent which in the hands of a good man could have been turned into something useful. But he was not a good man.



Bauer had been born into a family of poor German immigrants in one of the poorer suburbs of Detroit. He was unplanned and unwanted. Moreover he was ugly, and he was made to feel his ugliness.



At school he was tormented by the other children and became a loner, an outcast. He was not particularly bright and incurred both the indifference of his teachers and the contempt of his peers. Even at the local Catholic Church his family attended he felt unwelcome: the consolations of religion were withheld from him.



Later he drifted in and out of menial jobs; security guard, warehouseman, hotel cleaner. Wherever he went, he never stayed long. People were uncomfortable with him, and supervisors rapidly found excuses to let him go. When he heard the regretful platitudes, he looked into the eyes and he saw the truth: he was hated.



His family had heaved a sigh of relief some years back when he moved from Detroit to New York City.



But it was in that metropolis of isolated souls that he had discovered his gift.



Bauer’s only contact with women was through prostitutes. He felt even their contempt, but gradually he began to
realise – social misfit that he was – that he had an ability that others did not have. Perhaps his upbringing and isolation had honed his senses; perhaps he was just a biological freak. But whatever the explanation, he discovered that he could know what others were feeling.



Their actual thoughts remained hidden to him, but he could delineate the shapes of their emotions, he could mark out the maps of their current motivations.

With practice he became a cartographer of others’ desires. If he concentrated he found he could lay bare the restless emotions that lurked behind the quotidian mask. He could do this with only one person at a time, but it was a singular discovery.



However, the skill did not bring him joy. It brought him an even deeper sense of loneliness. Denied to him were the white lies and petty hypocrisies that make daily life bearable.



When he lay down with a whore, he could no longer even pretend the experience was pleasurable. It was fake, it was simulated. For both of them.



Bauer’s bitterness and sense of injustice intensified, until one day he discovered his talent had reached a new level. He could not only detect the emotions of others: he could influence them.



The ability was fragmentary and only worked for a short time, but it was powerful. Exactly how it worked he had no idea, but he began to use it in small ways for sexual conquest. At first, it gave him pleasure, but later it merely deepened his contempt for women. His deep-seated misogyny for the sex that had most tormented him in his youth burst forth into full bloom.



And a new thought formed: Why fuck them when I can kill them?



Bauer sat back in his chair and studied Joy’s face. The usual signs of puzzlement were present in her eyes as her feelings were silently manipulated. Her body language was beginning to soften towards him. She started playing with her hair, and her lips parted in a smile as the mental metamorphosis continued.



“Another drink, Joy?”



“I’d love one, Manfred.”



Bauer looked at the hint of cleavage showing through her blouse and imagined the incipient wetness between her thighs. He wondered how long ago it was since he’d last had sex.



Perhaps for old times’ sake he’d have this one before he killed her. He deserved a little treat.

PART THREE (by Billy Ray Chitwood)

None were visibly present in this lower Manhattan bar of zombie-like misbegottens but a swarm of flies or cockroaches would have been right at home. The scarred table in the corner of the large square room had a wall light that flickered and gave an eerie cast to the already dimly-lit room. The sordid place reminded me of dark and shadowy scenes from a Robert Rodriguez film. At this late hour there were still a few resident zombies on bar stools and at other worn tables. At the bar Manfred waited, smiling, watching me, while the bald slob of a bartender mixed my vodka tonic and poured a generous serving of well Scotch into a highball glass for my newly acquired boyfriend… The harassed waitress who had taken our drink order was no where in sight. These few moments gave me time to consider a new line of work and a long soap-sudsy bath.


When Manfred Bauer (God! this genteel name, this man!) placed the drinks on the table and sat, his eye and confident smile never left me. “I’m sorry, Joy, to make you wait. It appears our waitress has suddenly left the premises. Baldy the bar man says it happens frequently.” His smile still in place, he paused, drank, gave me a curious look with those blue eyes that were somehow conflicting pools, an odd magnetic mix of charm, evil, and sadness. “Tell me, Joy, you dress like a girl of the streets, sexy and slut-like, but I have the distinct feeling you don’t belong here… where do you belong?”

“Stop undressing me with your eyes, Manfred. Everyone has to be somewhere. Tonight, I’m here, and I belong wherever the hell I wish to present myself.” I took a sip of my vodka tonic, measured its taste, decided there was no alien blend, and took a larger swig. He couldn’t possible read my inside trembling, but his eyes touched a nerve within me and made my focus more difficult.

“Aah, a lady confident within herself! I’m not easily fooled, Joy. Why, indeed, are you sitting here with me at this hour in time?”

“There’s something about your brutish style and ugly looks that intrigue me, Manfred. What is it that you do for a living here in the lower east side?” I tried to hold it but involuntarily did a dry swallow before the drink glass reached my lips. I hoped my inceptive fear was not showing. Those eyes! Those damned eyes!

What a snake-charming creep, this perp! His orbs took me to an unwholesome place that frightened me more than I thought it possible. There was something else in those remarkably pale blue eyes that I could not define, an aura of malevolence that sought to bring me to it. My mind was being tested big time. Could I handle this? Could all my
training get me through these last moments? I could only hope that the ‘wire button’ was doing its job, that my comrades at NYPD were ready to join the party when the time came, when we were sure this person was the
candlestick killer. In my mind there was no doubt. In some exclusive way, as I sat across from this obnoxious and odorous man, there came a certainty that he was the killer. Further, another certainty came loud and clear: he
wanted not only to have me sexually in the most awful ways but he wanted to kill me. All this I felt in those light-flickering moments.

“I do whatever I want, pure Joy! There is enough money, enough sex, and enough activity within the underbelly of the lower east side that keeps me active and alive … for a while longer.” His last three words fell softly like an afterthought not to be clearly heard. As he spoke he arranged his chair and guided his left hand under the table to gently rest upon my thigh. His devilish eyes betrayed him for a moment, and, without my protest, he removed his hand. I caught something in his pitted face, just not sure what the hell it was.

“‘For a while longer,’ you said? Is there a special meaning to that statement, Manfred?”

“Why not? Why not tell you? It doesn’t matter to me and it won’t matter to you. I’m to die shortly, pure Joy. A rare and fatal disease, I’m told. What you need to know is that I accept and embrace that knowledge. It is not knowledge that will upset our little world and I’m simply living out some final dreams and illusions. What say we get out of here, my lovely and sexy pure Joy.”

“Stop calling me, ‘pure Joy,’ and leave off with the ‘my,’ Manfred. You’re dying?” His smile was locked into place and his eyes were doing a Hallmark number on me.

“Everyone dies at some point, Joy… You notice I’ve honored your request. Now, can we get out of here? Where do you live?” He pushed back his chair, stood, and put on his bulky winter coat.

“Whoa, el tigre, not so fast! Let me finish my vodka tonic.” I gulped down my drink. “What? We’ve known each other, twenty-thirty minutes?”

“Time is a relative thing, Joy. For me, it’s now or never.” His eyes did their last combo of devilry and wistfulness. “Where do you live?”

“Uptown!” I said.

I rose. I knew what it was that had brought me to this bar and part one of the mission was successful. There were the final dreaded and hoped-for moments ahead, but I had gotten the first part of the job done. Now, there was within me an odd deja vu feeling, a medley of sensations that played to my cop-side and to my woman-side. Not only was some of that mix beguiling, it was also a betrayal of self.

As he awaited my coat donning, he said: “So, you were just slumming, pure Joy?”

“Yes, occasionally I get the hankering to see multiple sides of the Big Apple. We’re all animals, you know?” I walked alongside Manfred out the bar door.

“Oh, indeed, I do. Are you driving or cabbing?”

“I’m parked a few cars up the curb.”

He was quiet as I started the car’s engine and pulled away from the curb.

He played ‘rub the thigh’ during the ride and kept his smile esoterically baffling. I tried slapping his paw away, but he kept up his game. Actually, the gentleness of his touch and the sensate stir it caused surprised, titillated, and annoyed me. I managed to check the rear view mirror occasionally but could not be sure that the few trailing cars far behind me included my unmarked back-up. There was not a lot of traffic, and we chatted, strangely like a romantic couple on their way for a sexual encounter. What bothered me was that I could feel the anticipatory urges. What the hell was up with that?

“What motivates you, Joy?” he asked, feigning perhaps an honest and sincere question. Damn, the question had a mysterious sadness to it. He removed his hand from my thigh and stroked my black smooth tresses.

“I motivate me, Manfred. I participate in life, in living, and, for the most part, I enjoy people and sharing…”

He abruptly removed his hand from my hair as though surprised by his own fondling action.

“Is this all just an animal instinct for you, Joy?” He asked in a surprisingly weak voice.

He caught me off guard with this near normal conversation. I needed to keep it real! I had to keep my focus. “What the hell else could it be, Manfred? You have your moments but you’re not the most appealing of the ape class! You do have an odd animal attraction. That, I can’t deny… What? You for sure can’t be expecting more than that after this rapid romance? I mean, hey, I’m sad, sorry you’re dying, and I feel like helping you realize some of those sexual illusions, but that’s it, pal.”

I glanced over at him. His face still held that unnerving smile on the lips. The lights of neon night produced a shiny side-view watery glaze to his eyes. For brief seconds, I damned near felt sorry for Manfred Bauer. He didn’t drug me, but what the hell was this wacko using on me? Was he using some weird mojo, voodoo black magic stuff on me? There was a lot going on in this new tech savvy world of ours, and I was not privy to all of it. Damn, maybe he did put some tasteless something in my vodka tonic…

“It was just a trick question, pure Joy. That’s ‘for sure’ all that it was.” His voice had regained its edge of hardness. He stared straight ahead with the pasted smile. It was as though he had reached a final determination on the outcome of this night. There was a sense that he knew all the steps that were to follow our drive to uptown Manhattan.

Despite all my investigative training, all the years of experience and heightened awareness in tough undercover situations, there was something palpable and very scary happening inside of me. A degree of fear always
accompanied these operations, but the frenzied feeling that came to me now was beyond any I had ever known. Manfred Bauer had done a job on my emotional wiring, and I felt myself losing control.

We arrived at the recently rented NYPD apartment twenty minutes later.

Part 4 – Finale by Diane Strong

Manfred Bauer leaned his tanned body back in the reclining chair with a sigh and pushed his manicured feet deep into the warm sand. It felt comforting. The sun sat just above the horizon casting an orange light over the vast beach and colorful bungalows. He breathed in the warm salty air, basking in the solitude. His thoughts drifted back to nine months ago, to memories he tried to keep out of his head but usually failed.

It had been so close.

Had he not changed his mind at the last minute and forced Joy to drive away from her apartment his pathetic but rhythmic life would have been doomed. The investigators would have captured him in her apartment, guilty. Evidence of his plans to kill her would have been obvious, had they reached him before the act which they most likely would have since he planned to have his way with her first…stretching out the night.

He would be on death row right now.

They wouldn’t have needed to drag a confession out of him, it would have spilled out. But then he wouldn’t have cared if they’d sentenced him to death. He had prepared for death anyway, and he certainly wouldn’t have made a difference if it come at the hands of the state or his own hands. He had wanted to die either way. He’d had no desire to remain in a world so appalled, so disgusted by him.

His gift hadn’t been enough. Sure he could influence the feelings of women, make them think they wanted him briefly, just long enough for him to have his way with them. But the manipulation always proved temporary and counterfeit. It had been like stretching a rubber band, you could pull it taut but as soon as you let go, it snapped back to its original shape, unchanged.

The sudden change of plans had saved him. There hadn’t been a chase, Joy’s back-up investigators weren’t close enough to understand what had happened until it was too late. He had ripped the wires from her body and tossed her cell phone into the back of a truck heading in the opposite direction. By the time the investigators realized they were following the wrong vehicle and got an APB out on the car, he had ditched it over an embankment.

Before making good his escape in his own car, Manfred had made a quick stop at his home which fortunately for him was not yet under surveillance.

As he scooped out the contents of his safe, he had recalled the phone call a year ago notifying him of his mother’s death. In spite the coldness between them his heart had sunk. His father’s death the year prior had hardly phased him, only creating a glimmer of sympathy toward his mother, now alone in his childhood home. His spirits had lifted, however, when in the same conversation he was informed that his mother, in good Catholic form, had left the entire estate to her one and only child, despite her never wanting him. Or perhaps because of it.

He wasn’t rich by American standards, but as he emptied the safe knew he could live quite comfortably in Mexico for the rest of his life. Moreover, he was struck by the realization that for the first time in his life, he actually wanted to live.

Manfred reached for his frosty pina colada and took a long pull from the large glass. He ran his tongue slowly over his upper lip collecting the salt from the exfoliated skin. His pale blue eyes stared into his drink, an unfamiliar image reflected back at him. The person staring back still felt so foreign with his clean shaven chin, plucked and trimmed eyebrows. Who could have known that a fresh hair style, a little dental work, daily hygiene and clean fashionable clothes could make a semi-handsome man out of him?

Of course, his new found love of running on the beach had helped tremendously. For the first time ever he had abdominal muscles and a tight ass that even he wanted to grab. The endurance he had acquired had worked for him two fold, he could run farther than most but even more importantly, he had become something of an athlete in the bedroom too.

This new life… how different it was from the one he had left behind. That creature he had been back in New York wouldn’t recognize the confident, loved man relaxing on this beach as the sun set across the ocean horizon. The Chinos, the Birkenstock’s and the soft organic cotton shirt draped over his muscular chest would all have been alien to him. Only maybe one thing would not…

“Joy, dear?” Manfred twisted his body and called out to the small bungalow behind him. A slender woman appeared carrying a tray of fresh fruit in her long tanned arms. A candle stick poked from the pocket of her long white cotton smock. Sleek, black tendrils of hair cascaded down her back, swaying as she walked carefully over the warm beach sand.

“Manfred, oh what an evening. It’s just to die for…”

“Yes, Joy. Pure Joy.”

EDEN BAYLEE: http://edenbaylee.com - http://about.me/eden.baylee - http://bit.ly/ebAmazon

JOHN DOLAN: http://johndolanwriter.blogspot.com - http://on.fb.me/TEKHds - #ASMSG (twitter)

BILLY RAY CHITWOOD: http://goo.gl/TeQpP - http://about.me/brchitwood - http://goo.gl/KtPJy (amazon) goo.gl/klczd (UK)

DIANE STRONG: http://dianestrong.wordpress.com - http://facebook.com/RunningAuthor - http://amzn.to/Ouedkh
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"The Candlestick Killer" - A short story by 4 Authors in 4 Parts

As promised last week, here in its entirety are Parts 1-4 of “The Candlestick Killer” by Eden Baylee (@edenbaylee on twitter), John Dolan (@JohnDolanAuthor), Billy Ray Chitwood (@brchitwood on twitter), and Diane Strong (@DianeIStrong on twitter), a short story which is a regular part of Cameron Gaggiepy’s ‘The Story Circle’ blog (@camerongarriepy on twitter). Again, it has been a great pleasure for me to participate in this project and my sincere thanks and good wishes go to my author buddies here. Eden started us off in the story, gave us our title, “The Candlestick Killer,” and passed Part 2 on to John Dolan. John passed Part 3 on to me. I passed the Part 4 finale on to Diane. It is our hope that you will enjoy our little story and perhaps visit us at twitter and our blogs. Those blog sites and amazon sites are listed at the end of the story.

“The Candlestick Killer”

PART ONE (by Eden Baylee)

I gazed into pale blue eyes framed by ruddy, pockmarked skin. His smile revealed a missing front tooth. I wrinkled my nose as an acrid smell drifted toward me. Alcohol mixed with rotting teeth. Wonderful.

“Howdy, Missy. You’re a sight for sore eyes.”

I inhaled through my mouth and sucked in my stomach, afraid bile might force itself up my throat. How many times had he used that line before? “I’m sorry,” I said, “but I can’t say the same for you.” A steely calm draped itself over me, but inside, I was shaking. I pressed my hands against my thighs to steady myself.

His look of shock seemed genuine. For a moment, I thought I had blown it, but then I saw the corners of his eyes wrinkle as he burst into raucous laughter.

“Ooh, you’re a feisty one. I like that!” He snatched a chair from an adjacent table. Twirling it around as if he were a matador fending off a bull, he dropped the chair in front me and sat down with a heavy thud.

I pretended to stave off disdain, but it was actually relief I felt. The plan was working; the next steps would be crucial. He liked women who were hard to get, that much I knew, but it was a fine line between keeping him interested and turning him off. “He’s a charmer,” my boss had said. “We need to figure out what he’s telling these women, how he persuades them to bring him home. We know it’s not his looks.”

No question about that. In person, the bastard looked more disgusting than the few out-of-focus pictures I’d seen of him. The lead we had been waiting for came after his last victim called 9-1-1 just before she died. She only managed to utter two words —“Ugly Motherfucker.” He’d left her in a pool of blood after cracking her skull with a brass candlestick. It took a week to retrace her every step, where she’d been, who she’d come in contact with.
A spree of killings over the past three months had left the women of New York City in a state of panic. Aside from living alone, the victims had little in common with one another. They came from varied economic backgrounds, worked different jobs, and shared no social connections. I received the case after the mayor demanded an arrest be made to allay the growing hysteria. Crimes against women were my specialty, but this reeked of a serial killing—not my specialty. I had little choice in the matter though. We’d caught a break. I sat face to face with the first suspect of the case the press now called “The Candlestick Killer.”

He was an ugly motherfucker, all right. I braced myself to walk the flirtation tightrope with him, wondering how the hell he had convinced eight women to invite him into their homes and ultimately to their deaths.

PART TWO (by John Dolan)



Manfred Bauer took a sip of beer and leaned forward slightly towards the woman sitting opposite him in the bar.He
continued to mouth platitudes while his real attention focused on the emotions she was concealing behind her confident exterior. The tendrils of his consciousness rippled out across the table which divided them and began slowly to insinuate themselves into her mind.



“I haven’t seen you in here before,” he said. “I’m sure I would have remembered. My name is Manfred, by the way.” His extended awareness probed into her raw subconscious, gently caressing the texture of her feelings. Ah! There it was … revulsion. The expected revulsion. But there was something else. Something with an edge to it. It felt like … fear.



“I’m Joy.”



“You certainly are,” he smiled and ordered drinks for them both from a harassed waitress.



Manfred Bauer had a gift. It was a talent which in the hands of a good man could have been turned into something useful. But he was not a good man.



Bauer had been born into a family of poor German immigrants in one of the poorer suburbs of Detroit. He was unplanned and unwanted. Moreover he was ugly, and he was made to feel his ugliness.



At school he was tormented by the other children and became a loner, an outcast. He was not particularly bright and incurred both the indifference of his teachers and the contempt of his peers. Even at the local Catholic Church his family attended he felt unwelcome: the consolations of religion were withheld from him.



Later he drifted in and out of menial jobs; security guard, warehouseman, hotel cleaner. Wherever he went, he never stayed long. People were uncomfortable with him, and supervisors rapidly found excuses to let him go. When he heard the regretful platitudes, he looked into the eyes and he saw the truth: he was hated.



His family had heaved a sigh of relief some years back when he moved from Detroit to New York City.



But it was in that metropolis of isolated souls that he had discovered his gift.



Bauer’s only contact with women was through prostitutes. He felt even their contempt, but gradually he began to
realise – social misfit that he was – that he had an ability that others did not have. Perhaps his upbringing and isolation had honed his senses; perhaps he was just a biological freak. But whatever the explanation, he discovered that he could know what others were feeling.



Their actual thoughts remained hidden to him, but he could delineate the shapes of their emotions, he could mark out the maps of their current motivations.

With practice he became a cartographer of others’ desires. If he concentrated he found he could lay bare the restless emotions that lurked behind the quotidian mask. He could do this with only one person at a time, but it was a singular discovery.



However, the skill did not bring him joy. It brought him an even deeper sense of loneliness. Denied to him were the white lies and petty hypocrisies that make daily life bearable.



When he lay down with a whore, he could no longer even pretend the experience was pleasurable. It was fake, it was simulated. For both of them.



Bauer’s bitterness and sense of injustice intensified, until one day he discovered his talent had reached a new level. He could not only detect the emotions of others: he could influence them.



The ability was fragmentary and only worked for a short time, but it was powerful. Exactly how it worked he had no idea, but he began to use it in small ways for sexual conquest. At first, it gave him pleasure, but later it merely deepened his contempt for women. His deep-seated misogyny for the sex that had most tormented him in his youth burst forth into full bloom.



And a new thought formed: Why fuck them when I can kill them?



Bauer sat back in his chair and studied Joy’s face. The usual signs of puzzlement were present in her eyes as her feelings were silently manipulated. Her body language was beginning to soften towards him. She started playing with her hair, and her lips parted in a smile as the mental metamorphosis continued.



“Another drink, Joy?”



“I’d love one, Manfred.”



Bauer looked at the hint of cleavage showing through her blouse and imagined the incipient wetness between her thighs. He wondered how long ago it was since he’d last had sex.



Perhaps for old times’ sake he’d have this one before he killed her. He deserved a little treat.

PART THREE (by Billy Ray Chitwood)

None were visibly present in this lower Manhattan bar of zombie-like misbegottens but a swarm of flies or cockroaches would have been right at home. The scarred table in the corner of the large square room had a wall light that flickered and gave an eerie cast to the already dimly-lit room. The sordid place reminded me of dark and shadowy scenes from a Robert Rodriguez film. At this late hour there were still a few resident zombies on bar stools and at other worn tables. At the bar Manfred waited, smiling, watching me, while the bald slob of a bartender mixed my vodka tonic and poured a generous serving of well Scotch into a highball glass for my newly acquired boyfriend… The harassed waitress who had taken our drink order was no where in sight. These few moments gave me time to consider a new line of work and a long soap-sudsy bath.


When Manfred Bauer (God! this genteel name, this man!) placed the drinks on the table and sat, his eye and confident smile never left me. “I’m sorry, Joy, to make you wait. It appears our waitress has suddenly left the premises. Baldy the bar man says it happens frequently.” His smile still in place, he paused, drank, gave me a curious look with those blue eyes that were somehow conflicting pools, an odd magnetic mix of charm, evil, and sadness. “Tell me, Joy, you dress like a girl of the streets, sexy and slut-like, but I have the distinct feeling you don’t belong here… where do you belong?”

“Stop undressing me with your eyes, Manfred. Everyone has to be somewhere. Tonight, I’m here, and I belong wherever the hell I wish to present myself.” I took a sip of my vodka tonic, measured its taste, decided there was no alien blend, and took a larger swig. He couldn’t possible read my inside trembling, but his eyes touched a nerve within me and made my focus more difficult.

“Aah, a lady confident within herself! I’m not easily fooled, Joy. Why, indeed, are you sitting here with me at this hour in time?”

“There’s something about your brutish style and ugly looks that intrigue me, Manfred. What is it that you do for a living here in the lower east side?” I tried to hold it but involuntarily did a dry swallow before the drink glass reached my lips. I hoped my inceptive fear was not showing. Those eyes! Those damned eyes!

What a snake-charming creep, this perp! His orbs took me to an unwholesome place that frightened me more than I thought it possible. There was something else in those remarkably pale blue eyes that I could not define, an aura of malevolence that sought to bring me to it. My mind was being tested big time. Could I handle this? Could all my
training get me through these last moments? I could only hope that the ‘wire button’ was doing its job, that my comrades at NYPD were ready to join the party when the time came, when we were sure this person was the
candlestick killer. In my mind there was no doubt. In some exclusive way, as I sat across from this obnoxious and odorous man, there came a certainty that he was the killer. Further, another certainty came loud and clear: he
wanted not only to have me sexually in the most awful ways but he wanted to kill me. All this I felt in those light-flickering moments.

“I do whatever I want, pure Joy! There is enough money, enough sex, and enough activity within the underbelly of the lower east side that keeps me active and alive … for a while longer.” His last three words fell softly like an afterthought not to be clearly heard. As he spoke he arranged his chair and guided his left hand under the table to gently rest upon my thigh. His devilish eyes betrayed him for a moment, and, without my protest, he removed his hand. I caught something in his pitted face, just not sure what the hell it was.

“‘For a while longer,’ you said? Is there a special meaning to that statement, Manfred?”

“Why not? Why not tell you? It doesn’t matter to me and it won’t matter to you. I’m to die shortly, pure Joy. A rare and fatal disease, I’m told. What you need to know is that I accept and embrace that knowledge. It is not knowledge that will upset our little world and I’m simply living out some final dreams and illusions. What say we get out of here, my lovely and sexy pure Joy.”

“Stop calling me, ‘pure Joy,’ and leave off with the ‘my,’ Manfred. You’re dying?” His smile was locked into place and his eyes were doing a Hallmark number on me.

“Everyone dies at some point, Joy… You notice I’ve honored your request. Now, can we get out of here? Where do you live?” He pushed back his chair, stood, and put on his bulky winter coat.

“Whoa, el tigre, not so fast! Let me finish my vodka tonic.” I gulped down my drink. “What? We’ve known each other, twenty-thirty minutes?”

“Time is a relative thing, Joy. For me, it’s now or never.” His eyes did their last combo of devilry and wistfulness. “Where do you live?”

“Uptown!” I said.

I rose. I knew what it was that had brought me to this bar and part one of the mission was successful. There were the final dreaded and hoped-for moments ahead, but I had gotten the first part of the job done. Now, there was within me an odd deja vu feeling, a medley of sensations that played to my cop-side and to my woman-side. Not only was some of that mix beguiling, it was also a betrayal of self.

As he awaited my coat donning, he said: “So, you were just slumming, pure Joy?”

“Yes, occasionally I get the hankering to see multiple sides of the Big Apple. We’re all animals, you know?” I walked alongside Manfred out the bar door.

“Oh, indeed, I do. Are you driving or cabbing?”

“I’m parked a few cars up the curb.”

He was quiet as I started the car’s engine and pulled away from the curb.

He played ‘rub the thigh’ during the ride and kept his smile esoterically baffling. I tried slapping his paw away, but he kept up his game. Actually, the gentleness of his touch and the sensate stir it caused surprised, titillated, and annoyed me. I managed to check the rear view mirror occasionally but could not be sure that the few trailing cars far behind me included my unmarked back-up. There was not a lot of traffic, and we chatted, strangely like a romantic couple on their way for a sexual encounter. What bothered me was that I could feel the anticipatory urges. What the hell was up with that?

“What motivates you, Joy?” he asked, feigning perhaps an honest and sincere question. Damn, the question had a mysterious sadness to it. He removed his hand from my thigh and stroked my black smooth tresses.

“I motivate me, Manfred. I participate in life, in living, and, for the most part, I enjoy people and sharing…”

He abruptly removed his hand from my hair as though surprised by his own fondling action.

“Is this all just an animal instinct for you, Joy?” He asked in a surprisingly weak voice.

He caught me off guard with this near normal conversation. I needed to keep it real! I had to keep my focus. “What the hell else could it be, Manfred? You have your moments but you’re not the most appealing of the ape class! You do have an odd animal attraction. That, I can’t deny… What? You for sure can’t be expecting more than that after this rapid romance? I mean, hey, I’m sad, sorry you’re dying, and I feel like helping you realize some of those sexual illusions, but that’s it, pal.”

I glanced over at him. His face still held that unnerving smile on the lips. The lights of neon night produced a shiny side-view watery glaze to his eyes. For brief seconds, I damned near felt sorry for Manfred Bauer. He didn’t drug me, but what the hell was this wacko using on me? Was he using some weird mojo, voodoo black magic stuff on me? There was a lot going on in this new tech savvy world of ours, and I was not privy to all of it. Damn, maybe he did put some tasteless something in my vodka tonic…

“It was just a trick question, pure Joy. That’s ‘for sure’ all that it was.” His voice had regained its edge of hardness. He stared straight ahead with the pasted smile. It was as though he had reached a final determination on the outcome of this night. There was a sense that he knew all the steps that were to follow our drive to uptown Manhattan.

Despite all my investigative training, all the years of experience and heightened awareness in tough undercover situations, there was something palpable and very scary happening inside of me. A degree of fear always
accompanied these operations, but the frenzied feeling that came to me now was beyond any I had ever known. Manfred Bauer had done a job on my emotional wiring, and I felt myself losing control.

We arrived at the recently rented NYPD apartment twenty minutes later.

Part 4 – Finale by Diane Strong

Manfred Bauer leaned his tanned body back in the reclining chair with a sigh and pushed his manicured feet deep into the warm sand. It felt comforting. The sun sat just above the horizon casting an orange light over the vast beach and colorful bungalows. He breathed in the warm salty air, basking in the solitude. His thoughts drifted back to nine months ago, to memories he tried to keep out of his head but usually failed.

It had been so close.

Had he not changed his mind at the last minute and forced Joy to drive away from her apartment his pathetic but rhythmic life would have been doomed. The investigators would have captured him in her apartment, guilty. Evidence of his plans to kill her would have been obvious, had they reached him before the act which they most likely would have since he planned to have his way with her first…stretching out the night.

He would be on death row right now.

They wouldn’t have needed to drag a confession out of him, it would have spilled out. But then he wouldn’t have cared if they’d sentenced him to death. He had prepared for death anyway, and he certainly wouldn’t have made a difference if it come at the hands of the state or his own hands. He had wanted to die either way. He’d had no desire to remain in a world so appalled, so disgusted by him.

His gift hadn’t been enough. Sure he could influence the feelings of women, make them think they wanted him briefly, just long enough for him to have his way with them. But the manipulation always proved temporary and counterfeit. It had been like stretching a rubber band, you could pull it taut but as soon as you let go, it snapped back to its original shape, unchanged.

The sudden change of plans had saved him. There hadn’t been a chase, Joy’s back-up investigators weren’t close enough to understand what had happened until it was too late. He had ripped the wires from her body and tossed her cell phone into the back of a truck heading in the opposite direction. By the time the investigators realized they were following the wrong vehicle and got an APB out on the car, he had ditched it over an embankment.

Before making good his escape in his own car, Manfred had made a quick stop at his home which fortunately for him was not yet under surveillance.

As he scooped out the contents of his safe, he had recalled the phone call a year ago notifying him of his mother’s death. In spite the coldness between them his heart had sunk. His father’s death the year prior had hardly phased him, only creating a glimmer of sympathy toward his mother, now alone in his childhood home. His spirits had lifted, however, when in the same conversation he was informed that his mother, in good Catholic form, had left the entire estate to her one and only child, despite her never wanting him. Or perhaps because of it.

He wasn’t rich by American standards, but as he emptied the safe knew he could live quite comfortably in Mexico for the rest of his life. Moreover, he was struck by the realization that for the first time in his life, he actually wanted to live.

Manfred reached for his frosty pina colada and took a long pull from the large glass. He ran his tongue slowly over his upper lip collecting the salt from the exfoliated skin. His pale blue eyes stared into his drink, an unfamiliar image reflected back at him. The person staring back still felt so foreign with his clean shaven chin, plucked and trimmed eyebrows. Who could have known that a fresh hair style, a little dental work, daily hygiene and clean fashionable clothes could make a semi-handsome man out of him?

Of course, his new found love of running on the beach had helped tremendously. For the first time ever he had abdominal muscles and a tight ass that even he wanted to grab. The endurance he had acquired had worked for him two fold, he could run farther than most but even more importantly, he had become something of an athlete in the bedroom too.

This new life… how different it was from the one he had left behind. That creature he had been back in New York wouldn’t recognize the confident, loved man relaxing on this beach as the sun set across the ocean horizon. The Chinos, the Birkenstock’s and the soft organic cotton shirt draped over his muscular chest would all have been alien to him. Only maybe one thing would not…

“Joy, dear?” Manfred twisted his body and called out to the small bungalow behind him. A slender woman appeared carrying a tray of fresh fruit in her long tanned arms. A candle stick poked from the pocket of her long white cotton smock. Sleek, black tendrils of hair cascaded down her back, swaying as she walked carefully over the warm beach sand.

“Manfred, oh what an evening. It’s just to die for…”

“Yes, Joy. Pure Joy.”

EDEN BAYLEE: http://edenbaylee.com - http://about.me/eden.baylee - http://bit.ly/ebAmazon

JOHN DOLAN: http://johndolanwriter.blogspot.com - http://on.fb.me/TEKHds - #ASMSG (twitter)

BILLY RAY CHITWOOD: http://goo.gl/TeQpP - http://about.me/brchitwood - http://goo.gl/KtPJy (amazon) goo.gl/klczd (UK)

DIANE STRONG: http://dianestrong.wordpress.com - http://facebook.com/RunningAuthor - http://amzn.to/Ouedkh
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