Monday, June 8, 2015

A Really Hot Babe and The Doosh

I must admit that after self-publishing a lot of books I’m still far from being an expert on how to best self-promote to sell my work. One could be the best writer in the world but if no one hears of your work (on a mass scale) then it’s impossible to sell many books much less earn a living doing what you love. 

You know what the best billboard in the world is? A really sexy woman selling your product. Ask Hardee’s and Carl Jr.’s. Ask any beer company advertising executive. Ask any movie mogul in Hollywood. Direct TV might not be a topic of discussion on social media but I’m pretty sure Hannah and her horse is. 

So imagine my surprise when Krazi Renee ( offered to do a photo shoot wearing a very loose fitting tank top with my most recent book cover on it! She wore the hell out of that shirt. If you have read A Man Called Doosh you will know that there are two very busty and sexy women that escort “The Doosh” to the ring and do all promotion with him. Oddly enough, Krazi Renee (also an actress, model, and Tromette from New Jersey) resembles a member of “The Management” from the book. So I guess you could say she is a real life Mandy I. Candy. Now if she only has a friend that could play the role of Freeda Fondall for the next photo shoot!!!

So, without further delay, enjoy the photos from Krazi Renee and make sure you check out her website for more photos and merchandise! Thanks, Renee!! Much appreciated.

Buy my book here:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Whitetop Mountain

After another long cold winter Spring is finally here and we've have some beautiful days mixed in with all of the rain. Hopefully this Summer will be warmer than last year and I can get a few more trips under my belt. This week (April 24th) I made my way to Whitetop Mountain in Mount Rodgers National Forest. Whitetop Mountain is the second tallest peak in Virginia behind Mount Rodgers. I took the opportunity of a sunny day to walk a little bit of the Appalachian Trail. Here are a few pictures from the top of the mountain.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Southern Rain

A friend of mine asked me this week how my latest writing project was coming along and why I have delved into a work of dramatic literature and deviated away from the previous genres I have felt comfortable in. It was a good question and I wasn’t sure how to answer the question. After reflecting on it a bit I finally settled on an answer that is at least satisfactory for me.

In the past I have written horror under my real name. I started off writing in that genre because it was comfortable and I had read countless horror books and seen every horror movie imaginable. I guess you write what you know. I feel like it was easier to write them (even though I admit to being far from a great writer) because the stories came easy to me. But I suppose everyone who is an artist has to grow sooner or later. After a few novels and short story collections I moved on to write some comedy. Mostly to sort of laugh at myself during a tough point in life.

However, writing my current novel, Southern Rain, has posed a pretty significant challenge. And writing this piece is a reflection of my changing reading preferences over the past few years, mostly book recommendations from a friend that always had me hopping from one book to another. That was a good thing in retrospect because it made me want to read more about various topics, not just works of fiction. At a point in life you look back and you reflect on a lot of things. You wonder “what if” and “why” before you move forward sometimes. So I delved into philosophy and some psychology before I recently started Southern Rain. It is a story of friendship and betrayal. Of life and death. Of trying to accept the fact that the main character is disposable to someone that meant more that he even knew. Of trying to reconcile the past in order to move forward, and asking if it is even possible. It’s a story of best friends that find themselves with a tough situation that has cost them both everything, and could even cost them their lives as they wrestle with the question of why they have to do something very wrong in order to do the right thing.

This book is a significant challenge because I finally have something personal to say.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Doosh Playlist

I have spoken to many writers over the years about their writing habits and traditions. I have a tradition that I have kept since I finished the rough draft of my first book (written under another name) back in 2003. When I finish a rough draft I always take the time to go outside in the sun and smoke a premium cigar, usually a Makers Mark. I assume that’s better than stripping naked and drinking whiskey outside. At least for the neighbors!

I have noticed that most writers need absolute silence when they write. They can’t stand even the slightest of distraction. I guess that’s understandable. I, on the other hand, would go insane without some sort of background noise. I prefer to have music playing when I write, preferably something that sets the tone for what I am writing. If I am writing something that is edgy and a bit out there, like Bedtime Stories For the Terminally Afraid, I will listen to something like The Doors or even go so far as Type O Negative.

For this goofy book, A Man Called Doosh, I had a totally different playlist. If you haven’t read it yet you can pick it up for you Kindle or NOOK for only $2.99. It won’t break your bank account, but if you don’t check it out you just might break my heart. Heh! Oh, and while you’re at it, add The Doosh Playlist to your MP3. It makes your workout at the gym go faster.

Dirty White Boy by Foreigner
Jive Talkin’ by the Bee Gees
Don’t Bring Me Down by ELO
Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting by Elton John
Street Fighting Man by The Rolling Stones
I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred
Strut by Sheena Easton
U Got the Look by Prince
Legs by ZZ Top
Link for Kindle:
Link for NOOK:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Man Called Doosh!

Eddie Duchesne has a big problem. He and his wife live a comfortable life like most, paycheck to paycheck. Only now that she is three months pregnant they lost their health insurance at his job because of the new health care law. What was adequate for their needs was suddenly illegal. Now Eddie has to pay twice as much for less coverage and they barely get by as it is. What’s the solution? Eddie takes a weekend job as a wrestler in Tampa to make enough extra money to afford their insurance.

Follow Eddie, aka “The Doosh” in this laugh a minute comedy as his wife comes up with a plan to make him infamous in Tampa, at least until the baby comes. “A Man Called Doosh!” is reminiscent of the old glory days of professional wrestling when working the local circuit was important and you never knew what was going to happen next. Bar fights, arrests, a drunken priest, jive talking, and one mean bastard make up the adventure that will keep you laughing your ass off. The Doosh, his wife, her two sexy friends, and Latino Heat are out to change wrestling in Tampa forever.

Enjoy the comedy! Coming soon to Amazon and other online ebook sellers.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Another Sample From "Dark Nights"...for the holidays.

Brad wrapped up the finishing touches on his last exam of the Fall Semester before turning it in to his Biology professor and exiting Chambliss Hall. It was the last day of final exams before Christmas break and the campus was already mostly empty of students. He shoved his hands into the deep pockets of his jacket and began walking back toward his dorm with a feeling of satisfaction about how his grades would be after his first semester at college. He was also looking forward to the break and going back home to spend some time with his family. He remembered back to his first day on campus and how excited he was to get away from home for the first time. Even he was a bit surprised at how much he missed the family, including his little sister.
The chill of winter hung in the crisp air as he quickly made his way back to the other side of campus to his dorm room. The sky was a dull grey and there was a hint of moisture hanging in the air, just enough to plant the thought of the possibility of another snowfall before he and his girlfriend, Jessica, drove home together for the holidays.
Just as he was walking into his dorm room his cell phone chirped from inside his jacket pocket. He had put it in the inner pocket during his exam and had forgotten that it was even there. For that matter, he considered himself lucky that it didn’t ring or beep from incoming texts while he was taking his exam. That was one pet peeve the professor had made clear on the first day of class. All cell phones were to either be off or on silent. If you felt the urgent desire to send a text when you were on her time then she expected you to leave class for the rest of the day.
“Hey sweetie,” he said cheerfully to Jessica. “Where are you?”
“I’m just tossing the last bag I’m taking home in the trunk and then I’ll be over to get you. Do you need any help carrying things out?”
“No, I have just one suitcase. I have enough at home to get me through the next three weeks before we have to come back. Are you still wanting to stop along the way to pick up some gifts?” he asked.
“Since I finished my exams two days ago I managed to get most of my Christmas shopping done except something for my dad. I thought you might help me pick something out. I’m sure we can find a mall somewhere along the way, as long as we don’t take too long to shop,” she said. “It’s a four hour drive back home, you know.”
“I know. I can help you with the driving and I shouldn’t take too long to pick up a few gifts. I’m sure we’ll pass a mall or two along the way.”
He and Jessica had decided to take an alternate route home for the holidays. If the interstate was anywhere near as crowded as it was when they went home for Thanksgiving, they knew that the traffic would be terrible and the trip longer and more dangerous than it had to be.
When Jessica pulled up in her Jeep Tracker Brad was already waiting outside with a small suitcase, his backpack, and his laptop computer. She popped the back and took the small suitcase from his hand. He smiled when he noticed the cleaned out corner where she left room for his bags and he smiled at her. It was the first time he remembered seeing her Tracker that clean since he father bought it for her during their junior year at high school.
He quickly put his other things in the back and closed it. Before he could walk around to the passenger side she forcefully grabbed his wrist and pulled him back to her and kissed him hard and deep.
“I missed you, too,” he said with a lopsided grin on his face.
“I’ve been dying to do that ever since I left your dorm room last night,” she said with a sinister smile. She had managed to sneak into his room since his roommate had already left for the holiday. She brought him dinner and they made love three times before she let him go to sleep. She knew he had a tendency to over study when he was nervous, and Biology was the one subject that he hated. She certainly took his mind off of the exam.
“How do you think you did?” she asked, actually hoping that she wasn’t too much of a distraction for him and caused him to fail. Brad had the habit of staring off into space and fantasizing of her from time to time, especially after nights like last night.
“I think did okay on it. Enough to at least squeeze out a C in the class. That subject is like my own personal cross to bear. I barely passed the two years of it in high school.”
“I remember,” she said laughing. “The only way I could get you to go through with the frog dissection was to tell you that I wasn’t wearing any panties and I’d prove it to you if you would make it through that test without throwing up!”
Of course she was wearing panties, but the distraction was enough to get him through the class and barely make a D. But that was part of her charm. Jessica knew the right buttons to push. And even more than that, he was thankful that her father was clueless about how much his little girl had grown up since they began dating. He probably knew but pushed it out of his mind. Besides, Brad had no intention of pissing him off since he was the Chief of Police in their home town.
It was only ten thirty in the morning when they drove away from the campus, but with traffic and stopping to finish their Christmas shopping they were hoping to make it home before six o’clock that evening.
They spent the first two hours of the drive catching each other up on what was going on with their families. They had been so busy their first semester getting used to their new surroundings, making new friends, and getting involved in school activities that they let the topic of their families go for the most part when they had time together. Brad was glad to finally have something not school related to talk about with the exception of their extra activities. Jessica had joined the school newspaper to learn more about her major of journalism and he had joined the college radio station and was learning how to be a disc jockey for a little extra fun on the side.
Jessica was glad that they decided to take an alternate way home even though they had never driven this way before. As the two lane road opened up into a four-lane highway, the towering pine trees on either side of the road went on as far as she could see. She had always heard that Forest Parkway was a beautiful drive that crossed into Jefferson National Forest at certain locations. The mountainous landscape was beautiful as they continued on their drive.
A couple hours into the drive Brad spotted a sign for an exit to the town of Strassburg followed by a road sign for the Strassburg Shopping Mall.
“Perfect!” he said. “We’ve made great time and the towns on this parkway don’t seem to be too big so hopefully the place won’t be too busy.”
“Well, no more busy than the Bristol Mall during this time of year,” she replied as she veered off the highway and down the exit ramp to Strassburg.
The small town was only fifteen minutes off of the parkway, but she and Brad were both surprised to see the parking lots around the mall nearly filled to capacity as they searched for a parking spot close to the main entrance at the center of the mall.
“For a small town they really know how to pack the mall,” she mused.
“Maybe it’s the biggest mall in the area and people come from several towns around. The Mercer Mall is always packed this year with cars from both sides of the state border. Maybe it’s the only game on the parkway if you want to shop?” Brad added.
Jessica drove around searching for a closer place to park, along with at least a dozen other cars in this section of the parking lot, before she gave up and pulled into one of the open spots at the end of the lot.
“Hope you don’t mind to walk,” she said sarcastically as they got out of the vehicle and walked hand in hand toward the mall entrance.
“I don’t mind it after sitting in the car for two hours. How about you?”
“Not at all, but I’m dying of thirst. Let’s grab a soda or a bottle of water first, okay.”
Brad couldn’t help but notice that the cars in the lot were all older models, almost as if no one ever bothered to buy a new car in at least the past five or ten years.
The main entrance was crowded with shoppers going in and out and the holiday mascots in full dress taking photos and handing out candy canes to the countless army of kids coming and going through the glass doors. Jessica thought for a moment about going over to the snowman on the sidewalk and getting a picture with her cell phone but thought better of it with so many shoppers nearly tripping over themselves.
“Hey, Jess,” Brad said as he tugged her hand and guided her into a different direction. “Too many people out here. Let’s go in the other door,” he said as he nodded toward a heavy looking grey metallic door that looked like a separate entrance into the mall, possibly used by the maintenance crew. “No sense tripping over so many feet when we can stroll in and get started with the shopping. Besides, I have a pretty good idea what I want to get so it shouldn’t take too long. We’ll probably spend more time standing in lines to pay for the gifts than we will actually picking them out.”
Brad swung the heavy door open as Jessica walked in ahead of him. She was glad that the first thing she saw was the sign to the ladies room.
“Wait here,” she said after planting a soft kiss on his cheek. I don’t want to lose you in the crowd. I’ll be right back,” she said and disappeared into the bathroom.
Brad leaned against the wall and took a deep breath. He hated that he waited so late to do his Christmas shopping this year. He hated the crowds during the shopping season and usually had his shopping finished before Thanksgiving. But this year with so many changes and staying busy at college it had slipped his mind. He hoped that he would get everything done during today’s trip. He really didn’t like the thought of having to go to another mall during his Christmas break.
He leaned his head back against the wall to listen to the bustling crowd inside. It was then that he realized what he should have noticed the moment they walked through the door. There wasn’t a sound coming from the main area at the end of the long hallway that led into the center of the mall.
“Are you ready, lover boy?” Jessica said as she exited the bathroom. She gave Brad a confused look when she noticed he was staring down the hall as if he were frozen.
“What are you looking at?” she asked.
“Nothing. And that’s just the problem.”
Jessica took his hand and they slowly walked down the unlit corridor into the main food court of the mall. The food court, as well as the other wings of the mall as far as they could see, were bathed in sunlight coming through the glass domes overhead.
“Where did everybody go?” she wondered aloud. It was like they had just stepped into an alternate dimension when they took the wrong door into the mall, she thought.
They looked in all directions but the shopping mecca was like a ghost town. They slowly walked toward the center of the food court and looked back down at the main entrance to the mall where only moments before the mall and the sidewalk outside was flooded with kids laughing and parents and grandparents lugging around bags full of gifts.
The tables and chairs situated in the mall opening where normally shoppers would be resting their tired feet and backs from walking all day, or having burger or hotdog with a soda, were now scattered about sporadically and covered with a thick layer of dust. It looked as if the mall had been abandoned for years.
“Tell me I’m not crazy, Jess. This place was packed like a can of sardines when we got out of the car, right?”
“I don’t know what’s going on. People don’t just disappear like that. Unless we’re both delusional, we walked into a crowded mall. I could hear people in here when we were walking toward the front doors. It was loud in here.”
“Well, whatever is going on here I don’t think I like it very much. Let’s just get out of here. I’ll just do my shopping when we get back home,” he said.
“I don’t blame you,” she said nervously as she grabbed his hand tightly.
Brad, not wasting any time, began jogging toward the main doors. When they got to the glass entrance they both shared the same confused look. The glass was lined with a thin layer of dust on the inside and a thick layer of muck on the outside. It was so thick that it was hard to see anything on the outside very clearly. However, they saw very clearly the large chains and the heavy padlock wrapped through the door handles to keep people out, and they noticed Jessica’s Tracker parked all alone at the end of the deserted parking lot.
Jessica suddenly began to feel claustrophobic and the look of panic creeping in was obvious to Brad. He put his arm around her to try and provide some comfort. He could feel Jess shaking in his arms. He was just as confused and a bit scared at the oddity of the situation but he had no intention of showing it.
“It will be alright. We’ll find a way out of here pretty quickly. Besides, we can always go out the same way we came in.”
It was like a light bulb came on over her head. In the confusion of the situation she had forgotten all about the side door. Only two minutes later the worry came back. It was back for both of them when they realized that they were locked in and the narrow glass window in the side door was also covered in a dirty film. Once again, they peered out the glass and noticed a thick chain and padlock on the outside of the door. How in the hell did they even get in the building, he wondered.
Brad pulled out his cell phone to dial 911 but he had no signal. Jessica checked her phone as well, but they found themselves in the middle of a dead zone.
Despite pulling hard on all the doors, they were locked solid and likely didn’t even need the chains and locks on the outside. So the next best idea Brad could come up with was to break the glass at the main entrance. He picked up one of the metal chairs from a table in the food court and had Jessica stand far back from him in case the chair bounced off the thick glass. Even with a heavy chair he wasn’t sure he would be able to break the glass.
With that in mind he attacked the doors first. The glass was thinner and perhaps weaker than the heavier glass on either side of the doors. Brad slammed the back of the chair against the door with all of his strength only to feel the painful vibrations shoot up his arm when the chair bounced violently back toward him narrowly missing his face. He cursed loudly as he shook his arms and watched the chair slide across the floor.
“Are you okay?” Jess asked.
“I’m fine. This stuff is Plexiglas. I can’t break this stuff. We’re going to have to find another way out.”
Brad walked toward her, cursing as he did, until she held up her hand to signal him to be quiet. He stopped dead in his tracks and began to listen intently. He could tell that Jessica was hearing the same thing that he was. Voices. They were off in the distance but definitely coming from inside the mall. He breathed a deep sigh of relief at the thought that maybe they were not alone in here after all.
“They probably heard you banging that chair off the door,” she said.
They jogged back to the center of the mall and the voices were louder, still off in the distance.
“Hello!” Jessica shouted. Her voice echoed down the mall.
The voices in the distance became quiet. Jess and Brad shared a worried look when suddenly the silence was broken by the loud shriek of a woman screaming followed by the overpowering sound of a mob suddenly on the verge of panic. Only this time, the voices were much louder.
Brad and Jessica instinctively ran toward the shouting. It sounded like someone was hurt and both of them were certified in CPR. Jessica insisted upon the two of them taking a CPR class their last year of high school. If not for CPR performed by a stranger, her mother wouldn’t be alive today. And now she felt like it was her turn to return the favor to another stranger.
They rushed past a toy store, two women’s clothing chains and an American Eagle Outfitters before they were suddenly stopped in their tracks by the loud bang and echoing sound of a gunshot.
Brad grabbed Jess’s hand and pulled her down to the floor behind a wooden bench. It wasn’t much cover, but if another shot was fired and it was in their direction it was the only cover they had. He knew it was better than to having no cover at all. They needed to work their way back down the mall immediately and either find a place to hide or a quick way out.
“Do you remember if there were any windows in the bathroom?” he asked her in a whisper.
“You went in the bathroom when we first walked in. Were there any windows in there?”
He assumed it was a useless question but he had to ask. It was not a surprise when she told him there were none.
Four more shots were fired in rapid succession and they heard the blood curdling screech of a female before they heard someone stumbling over clothing racks and crashing to the ground with a grunt no more than two stores down from where they were crouched.
Screaming began to come from all around them. They could hear the sounds of heavy running footsteps rushing past them. Brad could have sworn to have felt the wind off the trampling crowd as they ran by, but as he looked on he saw no one. Then three more shots rang out. It sounded like they were being fired from right beside him. That was when he looked up and saw the man in the heavy brown jacket with ruffled red hair and loose fitting blue jeans walking by with a semi-automatic handgun in his hand. He was walking along as if he didn’t have a care in the world.
Jessica didn’t see the man walk by. She had buried her face in Brad’s chest when the last shots were fired. He could feel his shirt getting moist against his skin from her tears. Thankfully the gunman didn’t see them either when he strode by. Brad couldn’t help but wonder how many people were hurt.
Brad watched the man as he walked away. The screaming sounds ceased. He couldn’t believe his eyes, but the killer disappeared in front of him. He vanished into thin air. It hit him hard when he realized that he had just seen a ghost.  His hands began to shake.
“Listen, Jess. We’re going to get out of here. I saw some pay phones back the way we came in. There were four of them in the middle of the food court. I think we’re alone now, so let’s go try the phones and see if we can get the cops to let us out of here,” he said.
“Oh no, I think we’re in hell,” Jessica cried as she wiped the tears from her cheeks.
None of the phones worked.
After everything seemed to settle down, Brad and Jess sat side by side in the food court until their momentary panic went away.
“Do you think anything in this mall works?” he asked.
“I don’t know, but I’m dying of thirst. I wonder if any of these restaurants have a spare bottle laying around?” she said.
“Tell you what, you try Orange Julius over there and I’ll jump behind the counter at Chick-Fil-A right across from you. Maybe one of them will have a spare bottle of water. Then we’ll see if we can find a way out of here.”
Jessica took a moment to calm down before hopping over the counter. Out of curiosity she pressed the levers for the fountain drinks. Nothing came out which wasn’t a surprise. She wondered how long this place had been deserted. Jess opened the small refrigerator under the counter but no luck finding a bottle of water in there.
“Hey lady, think you can refill my Slushie?” a tiny voice said from the other side of the counter.
Jessica spun around to find a little girl in a thick pink jacket staring up at her. Her left check was peppered with dark crimson freckles and her jacket had a small hole in the front. She looked up at her with an innocent smile that only a cute little girl about her age could give. Jess guessed she might have been five years old and adorable.
“I don’t think the machine works, sweetie. Where’s your mommy?”
“She’s shopping. Can you try the machine anyway?” she asked sweetly as she handed her empty cup to Jessica. Her reach exposed her blood soaked shirt under her jacket and Jessica pulled back sharply.
“Are you okay?” she whispered, almost afraid to ask.
“Oh it doesn’t hurt, ma’am. Does the Slushie machine work?”
Jessica pressed the cup to the lever and oddly, what was a broken down machine a moment ago, was spitting out the cherry flavored drink into the little girl’s cup.
“Here you go, honey,” she said as she handed the girl her cup back. She took it with both of her little hands trying to be careful not to spill the large treat.
A woman walked around the corner of the shop with a look of relief on her face. “There you are! I’ve been looking all over for you,” she said. The little girls’ face lit up. “Hi, mommy! I was wondering when you’d find me.”
The little girl looked up at Jessica with a smile. “Thanks for the Slurpie!” she said as she took her mother’s hand. As the two of them turned to walk away Jess saw the open wound on the back of the woman’s head. It looked as if she took a gunshot at close range from the side. Her hair was matted and full of congealed blood.
Brad passed the two of them as he walked into the Orange Julius.
“Any luck finding a bottle of water? I came up empty over there, unless you want to snack on a brownie that looks to be a few years old,” he joked.
“Didn’t you see the people that just left?” she asked.
“What people?”
“The little girl and her mom. You didn’t see them? You walked right past them!”
“I didn’t see anyone.”
Brad didn’t see a mother and daughter, but he had no doubt that Jessica did. He had never believed in ghosts but he was no longer a skeptic. He couldn’t explain anything that had happened since they got here.
Jessica climbed back over the counter and hugged him. After today they would never be the same again. She squeezed him tightly. “Let’s get out of here,” she said.
They walked back to the main entrance to look at the map of the mall to see if they could come up with a plan for getting out of this nightmare. It was then that they spotted the man in uniform standing at the front door and looking in. He knocked on the window when he saw the two teenagers in the main entrance.
A wave of relief swept over them and they rushed to the glass doors. “Can you get us out of here?” Brad shouted.
“Just stay where you are. We’ve called the maintenance guy that oversees the property. He’s on his way over here with the key. How did you kids get in there?” the cop shouted loud enough for them to hear through the thick glass.
“The side door,” Brad said pointing over toward where they first came in.
A few minutes later they made their way back outside with a feeling of euphoria.
“I thought we’d never get out there,” Jessica said with relief. “I’m glad you guys came by,” she said to the officer.
“We are, too. Who knows how long you would have been stuck in there. We seldom even come out this way on patrol. If we hadn’t have seen your car in the parking lot we wouldn’t have stopped.”
“What happened here? When we got here the place was packed. We had to park at the end of the lot and when we got inside it was like a ghost town. Well, except for maybe a few others we heard in there,” Brad said.
“What do you mean, the place was packed? And you mean to tell me there are others in there? I still don’t understand how you got in,” the officer said.
“The parking lot was full. There were people everywhere,” Jessica said. “This entrance was so packed that we went in the side door over there. When we walked down that corridor into the mall area there wasn’t a soul in sight. When we came back this way to get out we found that all the doors were locked and chained shut. We were stuck.”
“That just doesn’t figure,” the cop said. “This mall shut down seven years ago after the shooting.”
“What shooting?” Brad asked.
“Seven years to this day, actually. A guy came in here with a gun. Shot the place up. Wounded eight people. Killed a woman and her little girl. Then turned the gun on himself. Pretty sad, actually. Sort of ruined the holiday for a lot of people around here. All the stores decided to shut down and they moved the mall to the other side of the town out by the Interstate.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dark Highway, a sample from Dark Nights short story compilation.

FREE SAMPLE: This is a short story from the compilation Dark Nights. It is available on Kindle for $3.99. Thanks in advance for your support. 

Dark Highway

It never ceased to amuse Ted just how cool the desert could be at night, even during the spring. Despite how hot it was just two hours before when he left the apartment of his lover and went back to his hotel to shower. Driving all night to get back home to his wife, the wide ranging temperature out on the lonely highway was something of a wonder to him. He had driven this road countless times when he told his wife he would be on a business trip and preferred to drive through the desert at night.
It was a long dark highway that would make the average motorist a bit claustrophobic with all the emptiness of the desert closing in on you, knowing that any kind of civilization was a long way away. The only comfort out on this stretch of road was the occasional shooting star and maybe an all night gas station every thirty miles or so with a shady looking night attendant armed to the teeth. It was just the kind of emptiness that Ted loved. Driving an empty highway for a few hours during the night somehow gave him comfort. Not only did he avoid traffic, but it gave him time to think and reflect.
Ted never reflected on the fact that he was cheating on his wife. After all, he was out of town on business. He had been forced to make the trip from Hurricane, Utah to Bakersfield, California on business three years earlier. It was on that first trip that he met Candace. After a couple of nights of being bored after working out of his company’s main office, he met Candace sitting alone at the end of an upscale bar drinking a dry martini. He had no intention of cheating on his wife that night, but both were lonely and foolish enough to drink a little too much while a soft jazz band was playing on the other side of the room. Perhaps it was the atmosphere, perhaps it was her low cut blouse and red lace bra barely showing that made him think about the possibility of a one night stand.
Regardless, they had spent the last three years having an affair and taking all precaution to make sure that his wife would not discover their secret. Candace was a passionate woman and had been divorced twice. She had no intention of marrying a third time. She also had no intention of breaking up a marriage over their affair. She was satisfied to have his company when he was in town on business.
Ted drove along the highway with the top of his red convertible down. He had enjoyed the sunshine as he worked his way down the Interstate before taking the alternate route that he so enjoyed. What was normally a seven hour drive was more like a nine hour drive by the time he made a couple of stops for fuel and to admire the wide open sky and the countless stars shining down on him from the heavens as if they were pinholes poked through the dark curtain of night.
As he reflected about his life and thought philosophically about purpose and fate, he harbored no guilt about the lie he was living. Instead, he felt it more a bit of luck and reveled in the fact that he had a beautiful wife and home and a naughty seductress waiting for him when he was on the road. It surprised him that he felt no guilt in the matter, but he accepted his callousness as easily as he accepted the truth that life was less than fair to some and more than fair to others. He counted himself among the fortunate to have life just as he wanted, as long as no one got hurt in the process. And that was why he was so careful not to get caught, and why Candace would not break their shared trust in the secret affair, even after an odd connection that they discovered one night while talking after making love this past winter.
It was the week after Christmas when he went back to the company headquarters for some end of the year meetings that he discovered their odd connection. He had finished up with the last meeting just before noon that Friday and went directly to see Candace at her house. They were very fond of each other, and she was incredibly passionate and that was what kept him coming back. They spent the rest of the afternoon in her bed until it was time for him to go back to his room and get some rest before taking the long drive back across the dark desert like he always did.
Candace had always been curious about his life back in Utah and about his past. They had talked for countless hours about their college years and about past relationships. However, she respected the boundary to never ask about his wife, but she was naturally curious. The main thing she wanted to understand was why he chose to continue the affair after their first meeting if he still loved his wife.
For the first time he opened up about Annie. Candace and Annie were two very different kinds of people, he explained as he laid there, her head resting on his shoulder and arm across his stomach. He loved Annie, but their relationship was nothing more than going through the motions the past couple of years. He could tell that they were both bored, but neither was interested in trying to spice up the marriage. It was like countless other marriages that were mostly for convenience, but still loving in a way.
Annie was always calculated, seldom emotional, always thinking two steps ahead. That eventually took the spontaneity out of their relationship. She was always that way, he suspected, but was much less so when they first met and during their first year of marriage. But it eventually became bland, although he knew he loved her and had no doubt that she loved him. Well, at least most of the time. There were times when he looked her in the eye and saw nothing but emptiness. He wondered why that emptiness was there and sometimes tried to prod her to make her talk about the dark side of Annie that he knew what there, or maybe was there in the past. She never played along.
Candace, on the other hand, was a ball of energy and emotion. Although they were lovers only, their relationship was sometimes like that of kids growing up trying to discover themselves just as much as they were trying to discover the big new world around them. For every heated fight they made passionate love. It was just their way, and Ted felt that it helped to keep him young. And Candace knew how to push every one of his buttons. She ran an independent company as a psychologist and marriage counselor, ironically.
Dusk soon turned into night and the traffic on the long desert highway was every bit as scarce as a natural source of water. Although the temperature had begun to drop, he left the top down and turned on his heater instead. He didn’t want to block his view of the stars above as he travelled alone in the darkness.
He looked down at his speedometer, driving along on cruise control at seventy miles per hour when he was startled by his cell phone chirping in his shirt pocket. He recognized the ringtone immediately. It was his wife calling from her cell phone.
“Hey, sweetie. How was your day?” he asked. Annie called like clockwork whenever he was on the road for work.
“Oh, just another day around the office. Not a lot to brag about. Working at the bank is about as exciting as working in a tax office, honey. You know that, though,” Annie replied.
He immediately realized that she sounded very distant tonight, very much detached emotionally on the call. Something was on her mind but he had no intention of talking about it until tomorrow. Besides, on the long stretch of road he was travelling there were significant pockets where he drove without a cell phone signal.
“How’s the drive so far?” she asked.
“Pretty nice so far,” he said. “I grabbed some sleep back at the hotel before leaving. Traffic is non-existent on this road, as usual. I’m going to stop for gas in a few miles and then I should be good to go for most of the night, or at least until I get a bit closer to home. Too bad you can’t come with me on these trips. The view of the stars is like something out of your imagination. It’s breathtaking out here in the desert at night.”
“Well, I’ll pass on those trips. It would be nice to spend the extra time together, but you’re the only person I know who finds pleasure in driving hours across the desert. I just want you to be careful, honey. You never know what could happen out there on that road and it would take forever for someone to find you if you had car trouble or an accident.”
“I’ll be careful, Annie. I promise. And if you don’t hear from me in the morning then you’ll know that I met a psycho killer out on the road,” he said jokingly.
“You know I hate when you say that. I wish you wouldn’t say that,” she said with a strain in her voice.
“I’m sorry. It’s just my way of being silly and trying to make you relax a bit instead of worrying about me. I’ll be fine. I’ll call you in the morning. I’m getting ready to hit a stretch of road where my cell signal dies so you get some rest,” he said, trying to reassure her before he hung up. For a woman who was very calculated and meticulous about everything, she certainly had a bad habit of worrying way too much.
Ted turned on his satellite radio and played soft jazz as he drove on into the night, the highway empty both in front of him and behind for as far as his eyes could see. After stopping for gas, and filling up the two emergency gas containers he often carried with him when he drove across the desert, he set his convertible to cruise control and drove off away from the annoying bright lights of the BP fuel station and convenience store with a cold bottle of soda and a couple of candy bars for snacking on during the drive.
Once out on the open road he adjusted the radio to listen to new age instrumental music. For him, it was a mood enhancer as he admired the night sky for all its splendor and beauty. It also helped him to relax and meditate and reflect on life.
He eased back in his leather bucket seat and relived the last kiss Candace gave him before he left her house. It was deep and passionate, and oddly a bit rough. That was something very different than the way they used to kiss. It used to be soft and intoxicating. That was before they had talked about his wife. It was an uncomfortable revelation that Candace and Annie went to college together. In fact, his jaw nearly hit the floor when he realized that they were actually friends and roommates during their senior year.
Ted knew better than to ask about their friendship, but his curiosity got the best of him. As he quickly discovered from their conversation, his wife wasn’t always the reserved and conservative girl next door that she convinced him that she was. According to Candace, Annie was always dragging her out to clubs where they could dance and meet guys. They would dance together seductively to get attention from the guys in the club, but at the same time they knew they were getting dirty looks from most of the girls that were out to have a good time but wasn’t nearly as daring and racy as they liked to be.
The thought of his wife and his lover mentally seducing each other had been stuck in his head ever since Candace talked of their time in college together. And now he wasn’t at all certain that they had not slept together. It was possible that his lover wasn’t telling him everything. In fact, it bothered him a great deal that his own wife had told him nothing of her past life, at least not the wilder side of it. Not that he would have held it against her or let it derail their relationship, he just resented that perhaps she didn’t trust him enough to share those memories as if it was a dirty little secret. And since she hadn’t told him, perhaps there were all kinds of dirty little secrets in her past. He found that he slowly began to lose trust in his wife. He could only laugh about the irony as he drove through the darkness since he was the one having an affair.
He pulled off to the side of the road, grabbed his cell phone and dialed Candace. She was probably wondering how far along he was in the drive and he usually called her before he got out of cell range.
After the fifth ring she picked up and seductively said “hello.”
“How are you tonight, beautiful?” he asked boyishly.
“Better now that you’ve called. How’s the drive so far?”
“It’s nice. There isn’t a cloud in the sky, it’s not too cold out so I have the top down, and there are more stars than we could ever count. If it wasn’t for the giving up all the conveniences of modern living I think I could live out here.”
“I love stargazing,” she said. “But you already know that. Too bad I can’t go back with you sometime so I can see all those stars.”
“Wouldn’t that get the neighbors talking!” he quipped. “What are you doing tonight?”
“At the moment I’m doing the same thing you are. I’m outside looking up at the stars. It’s a gorgeous night.”
“Are you going out tonight? I guess the night is still young, for some people.”
“No, I think I’m just going to stay in and read or watch a movie. I would go out but I think after our visit together I’m a bit too tired to do anything else,” she said. “And I mean that in the most complimentary way.”
Ted smiled and said his goodbye, the thought of his wife and his lover grinding on the dance floor in their early twenties still burning into his mind. He wasn’t sure how to feel about that thought. He wasn’t turned on by it. He wasn’t exactly disgusted by it, although it made him wonder if his Annie got around a lot before they met. The word “whore” floated through his thoughts, but he didn’t want to assign that word to either of them. It bothered him, but he kept that feeling from his lover. Candace, on the other hand, seemed very indifferent about the situation, almost amused by the unlikely triangle.
Ted stood by his car for a few more minutes before noticing a shooting star streak across the desert sky. He took a deep breath of the cool night air and resumed driving along the empty road.
He turned the soft sounds of the instrumental music back on and turned it up. He was hoping it would help him to relax and reflect on positive things, not the stress of his wife’s hidden past or the frivolous nature of his lover. It made him very nervous that there was a connection at all. That was the purpose of having a one night stand or an affair several hours away. There were no strings. But suddenly after three years he discovered the potential sticky situation and knew that he needed a way out of the affair. If it ever came to it, he would choose his wife simply for the fact that it would avoid a messy and expensive divorce.
Ted cruised along making decent time into the night and looked forward to getting home soon after dawn. He would sleep for a while and then he and Annie could call a couple of friends to meet for dinner somewhere. Anything to keep him occupied until his jealousy about her past wore off. He knew better than to ask her about it, anyway. For that matter, he knew better than to prod Candace too deeply about her past as well. The only thing he knew about her previous marriages was that one ended because of infidelity and the second one died in a freak car accident.
Ted suddenly noticed two headlights coming up from behind from way off in the distance as he glanced in his rear view mirror. It had been about forty five minutes since he saw another vehicle on this road. Traffic across this two lane highway was sporadic at best during the day. It was nearly abandoned at night. He slowed down hoping that the vehicle would catch up soon and decide to pass him. He didn’t like even the slightest distraction when he drove this road. Any light seemed to bother him as he moved his eyes back and forth from the road to the heavens.
It wasn’t long before the old beat up red Ford caught up with him. Ted looked back in the rear view mirror but had to make a quick adjustment to keep himself from driving off the road. The driver behind him had no consideration whatsoever about nearly blinding him with his bright lights.
Ted slowed down a little more and motioned for the driver to go around. Instead, the driver behind him laid on the horn for nearly a full minute before getting in the other lane to go around. Although Ted was plenty pissed off, he had no intention of flipping the bird despite how badly he wanted to. He’d seen too many horror movies to know not to mess with the “backwoods folk,” so to speak.
He looked over at the truck when it pulled up beside him. He noticed that the front fender was held on by something that resembled chicken wire and the passenger side had dents and scratches all down the side. It looked like the truck had seen more use as a stunt vehicle than something that should safely carry passengers on the road.
The truck drove beside him, swerving slightly into his lane, before jumping ahead of him and cutting him off in his lane. Ted had to hit his breaks hard to avoid hitting the back of the truck. What was this maniac thinking!
Upon closer inspection, Ted decided that the entire truck was probably held together by duct tape and wire close hangers. It looked as if someone had just driven it out of a junk yard. It would have taken a person of complete stupidity or real madness to trust that hunk of junk on this long highway. There was nowhere to stop except in the lonely desert if you broke down. And that realization made him suddenly very nervous.
The truck finally sped up and pulled away from him. He still had no desire to continue his normal speed on this highway until the idiot in front of him was long gone.
Before Ted realized what happened, the truck had slowed down and moved back into the oncoming lane, slowing enough that he found himself nearly side by side with the reckless chunk of metal once again.
“Are you insane?” Ted shouted.
The answer to his question came in a quick and deliberate movement. A skinny arm emerged from the passenger side window, covered in a black sweater and a dark glove, hurling an empty Budweiser bottle in his direction. Before he could even react he felt the cold hard glass against his skull and heard the bottle shatter before he even felt the deep cut into his forehead.
He lost sight in his left eye when the blood ran down to cover his vision. Ted swerved off the road, barely maintaining control of the convertible before bringing it to a stop in the dirt.
Ted kept his composure and watched the road in front of him as the truck came to a screeching halt. He threw open the door of the convertible, functioning mostly on adrenalin, and cursed at whoever was driving the truck. The driver suddenly threw the junk heap in reverse but stopped just short of Ted standing in the middle of the road before putting it back into drive and speeding off into the darkness. Ted stood in the road watching until the tail lights disappeared into the distance. To make matters worse, the truck didn’t have a license plate for him to report to the police or his insurance company.
He stumbled back over to his car and grabbed a tee shirt from the suitcase in the trunk. Even though he considered it dirty he used the white cloth to wipe the blood off his forehead before getting back into the car and inspecting the deep gash above his eye with a bit more precision in the rear view mirror.
At a closer look, Ted realized that there was a huge gash above his left eye that would only be fixed with a few stitches. The beer bottle had hit him at a perfect angle to shatter and cut. His light blue Oxford shirt already bore the blood stains of his open wound. He wrapped the tee shirt around his head to stop the bleeding as best he could and decided to continue on into the night. He knew that there was a gas station a few more miles ahead with a pay phone. The station was never open but the pay phone was near the back of the building. He could use it to call for help.
Ted settled back in behind the wheel after taking a closer look at his car for damage. Thankfully there were few scratches and no tire damage. He grabbed his cell phone but was not surprised that there was no signal. He had been down this road many times before and knew the drill. He was ten minutes away from the nearest pay phone. He started the car and put it in drive. He had no other choice other than to drive two hours back to the closest civilization. He took his chances with the desert.
Although his heart was racing he didn’t see the beat up truck on the highway. Fifteen minutes later he stopped at The Sand Pit, an appropriately named convenience store to be found in the middle on the desert.
Ted got out of the convertible and put the top up. He had no intention of being hit by a flying object again. He had a gushing wound to show for his pleasure of viewing the night sky, but wondered if he’d ever leave the top down again. He locked the car and left it parked in front of The Sand Pit where he noticed a video camera on the outside and walked around to the back of the building where there was a waiting pay phone.
He grabbed the phone from the hook with force only to realize that someone had cut the cord. There was no dial tone. There was no operator. There was no help coming on the long dark highway. Ted stood bleeding from his head with a phone receiver and half a phone cord in his hand.
“You have to be shitting me!” he screamed. He could almost hear his own echo bounce across the desert.
Ted took a deep breath to help him calm down and then walked back around to the front of The Sand Pit. He stopped dead in his tracks in the middle of the parking lot when he noticed the old red truck sitting in the road. He couldn’t make out who the driver was. In the darkness all he could see was the outline of the driver. The truck suddenly began to rev the engine, taunting him as he stood there frightened. Instead of waiting there to see what the driver had in mind, Ted broke into a sprint toward his car, keying in the security code on his key chain to unlock the doors before he got there.
He jumped inside and locked the doors and quickly fastened his seat belt. Before he could even start his car the rattletrap of a truck began to speed away in the darkness without its headlights on. Ted waited until he could no longer see the truck before pulling onto the road and going back in the opposite direction. He didn’t know exactly what the driver of the truck had in mind by scaring him and trying to kill him with a beer bottle, but he wasn’t about to stick around on this empty highway any longer than he had to. He was going back to the main interstate and taking that route. He made the easy decision that he would call his wife when he got into cell range and have her call the police to let them know what was going on.
Ted flipped open his cell phone and hit the power button. However, it did not come on. He pressed it again and held the button longer but nothing happened. He quickly went from driving ninety miles per hour in a seventy mile per hour zone and pulled over to the side of the road. He took the back off of the phone and couldn’t believe his eyes. While he was trying to use the broken pay phone behind The Sand Pit the driver of the truck must have somehow gotten into his car and removed the battery from his cell phone.
“Why the hell is that sadistic bastard playing with me?” he asked aloud, suddenly wishing that he had a gun with him for protection. Before Ted could pull the car back onto the road he saw the driver bearing down upon him once again. Because the driver had turned the headlights off, he barely caught a glimpse of it in his rear view mirror before the truck slammed into him.
Ted tried to keep the brake pedal smashed to the floor but it was useless. The truck continued to push him off the road and into the desert. Instead of fighting against the bigger vehicle, Ted threw the car into drive and pulled away from the madman behind him. He knew that if he didn’t get back to the road and get some distance then he was as good as dead. Before Ted could turn his car around the truck had managed to push him over a small hill and his convertible went nose first down into a large sandy ditch that was hidden from the road above.
He stumbled from the car but managed to keep his balance despite the dizzying ride and loss of blood from his head wound. He looked up the small hill when he heard the truck come to a stop and someone get out and slam the door shut behind them. He couldn’t make out the face of the driver, but he recognized the way the woman swayed when she walked.
“What the hell are you doing?” he asked her. Before she could answer he felt the hard cold sting of a metal pipe to the back of his head. He slumped to the cool ground and then his world went black.
Ted wasn’t sure how long he was unconscious. When he woke he found himself laying literally in the middle of the dry cold desert. His wound had started to bleed again and blood was slowly oozing down his face and partially obstructing his view. When he tried to wipe the blood away he realized that his hands were duct taped together behind his back. The trunk of his car was open and the woman standing over him gave him the look of a sociopathic predator. Her expression was plain and her eyes held no emotion for what she was about to do.
“Annie, please baby. Don’t do this,” he begged.
Despite the cool night air, Ted was sweating from every pore as he looked up at his vengeful wife holding a .38 in her gloved hand.
“You were home when I called you,” he said nervously. “Why are you here? I mean, how…” he trailed off when the other woman in his life came into view, strolling seductively toward him from the beat up red truck.
“Candace picked up a couple of hot phones in L.A., untraceable. I had all calls to my cell phone forwarded to this one. You’re right. You did call my cell phone that is still sitting at home. Those things are handy but they are also very nasty little tracking devices.”
“Let’s hurry up and finish this,” Candace said to Annie. “I need to get that truck back to the junkyard I stole it from before they open up.”
“I thought you loved me,” he said crying.
“Which one of us are you talking to?” Annie asked.
Candace slid in behind Annie wrapping one around her waist and brushing her hair aside to kiss her neck.
“You whores!” Ted screamed.
“We made a promise to each other a long time ago,” Candace said. “And unlike you, we keep our word. We swore we would never let a man come between us.”
Ted let out a yelping scream of panic at the top of his lungs.
Annie raised the .38 and fired one shot. Silence fell across the desert as they embraced.
“He always loved the view of the sky on this stretch of road,” Annie said.
“Who could blame him? It’s gorgeous out here at night,” Candace added. “I wouldn’t want to drive it alone at night, though. That’s just creepy.”