Sample Chapter for
“Town in a Maple Madness”
He turned his back at the wrong time.
It was the last mistake he would ever make.
His vision flared white-hot as fire exploded in the small of his back and up through his insides. It spread along his arms, his fingers, and the backs of his legs like lightning. His arms stretched out and his entire torso arched forward as if hit by an electric shock, for that is how it felt to him. He shuddered as his breath left him in a grunt. His eyes bugged out, red fireworklike streaks slashing across his vision.
He stumbled forward a step or two, gasping for air, and fell to his knees. Pain shot through his kneecaps and up his thighs as his teeth clattered together. Red-tinged spittle flew from his mouth into the moist riverside air, and he thought he might have bitten his tongue, or suffered a heart attack.
Or perhaps it was something worse. Much worse.
He tried to reach around with one hand to find out what had happened behind him, but he couldn’t get his arm to move in that direction, for some reason.
He knew what it was, though—or rather, guessed what it was, since he couldn’t turn his head to look back over his shoulder to tell for certain. He’d known of the blade—he’d seen it, even coveted it himself, as others had, since it had a unique history. But he never suspected it would wind up in his back. There were signals all around, but in his arrogance he’d ignored them. He thought he had the upper hand. He thought he had the situation well under control. He thought they’d agreed on the whole thing. He never expected any type of retaliation.
My bad, he thought.
It didn’t seem real. He’d come up with the plan, put it into action. But the situation had spun out of his control. He’d miscalculated, with lethal consequences. The realization sent a shock wave of panic through him.
He felt a hard push in the center of his back, as if someone had put a foot there and shoved. He was slung forward onto his stomach, his face dropping to the ground. He hit it with such force that he lost consciousness for a few seconds, or maybe longer, for when he woke he found that his hands and feet were tightly bound together. There was a gag in his mouth. He had a hard time breathing and could barely open his eyes.
Everything after that happened in a haze. He could feel himself being rolled into the net, felt it being wrapped tightly around him. Then he was rolled toward the water. He could hear it lapping against the damp bank. It was downhill, so it was easy to push him in that direction. Pinpoints of light—possibly stars in the sky, possibly reflections on the water, possibly something else—rotated in circles across his corneas. He knew what was happening, and struggled against the net, tried to move his arms and legs. But he was too tightly bound. Escape was impossible.
He entered the water and was set adrift. The river engulfed him, swallowed him whole, pulling him down and into its deep flow. It was so cold it shocked him all over again, making his body stiffen and numbing his brain and muscles and the pain that still coursed through him. As the water folded over him, he squeezed his eyes shut, making gold- and lavender-colored sparkles swirl across the insides of his eyelids. He felt the water rise up his nose and burrow deep into his ears. He dared not take in a breath.
He was facing downward and tried to roll himself around so he could get his mouth and nose above the surface of the water, but the power of the river’s grasp was too much for him. It mercilessly dragged him along, and he had little strength left to fight against it, for his lifeblood was flowing out of him, weakening him.
Good thing there aren’t any sharks around, he thought, or I’d be a goner.
But he knew he was a goner anyway, though he struggled as much as he could right up until the final seconds. Death came violently at first, his body jerking a few times, but right before the darkness took him, there was a moment of peace. A wonderful, blissful moment of peace.
He knew the whole story. He knew it would not end here.
There was still much to be told. The true ending was yet to be written.
But, to his regret and dismay, he knew his part in the story was done. It ended here, deep in the dark, cold waters of the English River, flowing down toward the sea, drifting in a direction that would eventually take him right past the small coastal village of Cape Willington, Maine.
End of Excerpt
Available from Berkeley Prime Crime, February 2014
Copyrighted material, used by permission.
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