"Forget it, kid, they're held down in cement," a deep voice said. "These stupid locals make up these playgrounds just to mess with us haoles."
Ben swallowed the saliva stuck in his throat and focused on his surroundings. There stood the green-eyed man, hidden in the swaying banyan trees. His black outfit blended into the dark forest. He moved toward Ben and holstered his gun, then popped open a switchblade from his back pocket.
"I am not here to hurt you," the man said when Ben shrunk into the rock. "I'm going to cut the ropes."
In a few swift movements he slit the ropes binding Ben, who staggered back. The man caught him and held him up, then ripped off the duct tape.
"Who are you?" Ben's body trembled from the rush of fear and a fierce headache pounded in his temple.
The man didn't answer. He bent over one of the dead Samoans and pulled out a wallet. He looked inside and threw it at Ben. "It's yours." Then the man led him by the arm down the overgrown road where he handed Ben his clothes from the brush. He tried to put them on but his hands shook so bad the man had to help him. He winced from the whip marks brushing against his jeans and shirt.
"Come on," the man said. Ben looked back at the dead men sprawled face down. They oozed like two fat walruses sunning themselves in the moonlight. "Don't worry about them. I'll dump them later, somewhere they'll never be found."
In a daze, Ben followed his savior up the rough road, stumbling behind him in the dim moonlight. Those men had carried him unconscious down this road.
"I'll take you back to base and you're on your own," the man said once they reached his car, parked off the main road. "Don't speak of this to anyone. Understand?"
Ben nodded and climbed in the car. He looked over at the stranger in black who had saved him. His mammoth biceps flexed as he drove, hunched over the wheel. The man's body looked crushed in the sedan. His square jaw tensed as he clenched his teeth. Ben turned to the window and closed his eyes. He had so many questions jumbled in his head. The wind blew soft on his face as they sped down the mountain curves. Giddiness rose in him from the pit of his stomach to his throat. He bent over his knees with laughter. He laughed and laughed and then he sobbed with relief. He would live. Just like when he chose to save himself from his foster father. But this time a stranger chose for him to live.
The man looked over at him, both hands gripping the wheel. "Get yourself together," he warned Ben. "I know what those bastards planned to do to you. This island is a cesspool of crap. Tropical paradise, my ass. Occasional good weather doesn't make up for the trash-filled streets, gangs, and homeless. That's what the tourists don't see."
Ben stared at him, fascinated by the man's lengthy dialogue and then a memory flickered. "You were at my foster mother's funeral. Why are you following me? Why save me?"
"I'm an interested party. Leave it at that."
"I can't. I would have died up there for sure."
The man didn't respond.
The man looked at Ben. His green eyes glowed in the moonlight that filtered into the car.
"Someday you might not thank me. Someday you may not survive."
Ben didn't know what to make of his comment. He started shaking again.
"Just close your eyes and breathe slow."
Ben wanted to throw up again. He remembered being sick in the hooker's room. That seemed like days ago since all this happened. He hugged his waist and closed his eyes.
They reached town and the man whipped in and around Honolulu traffic and stopped the car near the Pearl Harbor base. "You're good from here."
"I don't even know your name. Will I ever see you again?"
The man stared straight ahead and didn't answer. Ben bent his head down and stepped out of the car.
"Tonight was a warning," the man in black said in a low, deep voice. "Make a life for yourself while you have the chance. You can't change the past."
"How do you know about me?" Ben turned back.
The man looked up at him. He squinted as if in pain. "And get out of the Navy. It's not the place for you. The government will only screw you. Get out now."
The man slammed the door shut and sped off, leaving Ben standing on the curb.
He made his way to his barracks and collapsed on his bed. His roommate was still out somewhere. Ben fell into a deep sleep but couldn't escape the night. In his nightmares the Samoans laughed as they whipped him. His foster father joined them, snapping the whip on his back and cursing him for letting him die. Murderer! Then he fell off a cliff. The wind rocked his body but didn't push him back to safety. He screamed as he fell into the darkness. He tried to grab onto something but it was a black, empty abyss. Then a bright green light appeared above him. It grew larger and larger. He shielded his eyes as he fell, terrified. The green light rushed faster and faster toward him. It came for him. It would crush him just like it crushed his parents.
And he knew he was headed straight to hell.
About A HUMAN ELEMENT:
One by one, Laura Armstrong’s friends and adoptive family members are being murdered, and despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it. The savage killer haunts her dreams, tormenting her with the promise that she is next.
Determined to find the killer, she follows her visions to the site of a crashed meteorite–her hometown. There, she meets Ben Fieldstone, who seeks answers about his parents’ death the night the meteorite struck. In a race to stop a mad man, they unravel a frightening secret that binds them together. But the killer’s desire to destroy Laura face-to-face leads to a showdown that puts Laura and Ben’s emotional relationship and Laura’s pure spirit to the test.
With the killer closing in, Laura discovers her destiny is linked to his and she has two choices–redeem him or kill him.
Readers who devour paranormal books with a smidge of horror and Watchers and Twilight Eyes by Dean Koontz will enjoy A HUMAN ELEMENT, the new novel about murder, redemption, and love.
Reviewers are saying…
“A HUMAN ELEMENT is an elegant and haunting first novel. Unrelenting, devious but full of heart. Highly recommended.” –Jonathan Maberry, New York Times best-selling author of ASSASSIN’S CODE and DEAD OF NIGHT
“A HUMAN ELEMENT is a haunting look at what it means to be human. It’s a suspenseful ride through life and love…and death, with a killer so evil you can’t help but be afraid. An excellent read.” –Janice Gable Bashman, author of WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE, nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.
Donna Galanti is the author of the dark novel A Human Element (Echelon Press) and the memoir Letters from BootCamp (iUniverse). She won first place for Words on the Wall Fiction at the 2011 Philadelphia Writer’s Conference. Donna has a B.A. in English and a background in marketing. She is a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group and Pennwriters. She lives with her family in an old farmhouse in PA with lots of nooks, fireplaces, and stinkbugs. Visit her at: www.donnagalanti.com