Saturday, February 25, 2012

A HUMAN ELEMENT (Excerpt) by Donna Galanti

Ben opened his eyes and craned his head around to see what had happened. Under the bright moonlight the outline of the two big Samoans rose up from the overgrown road. They didn't move. The wind whipped the giant leaves of the banyan and guava trees about like sails on a great clipper ship. The buzz of traffic from the new Pali road carried up to him from below. He scanned the area. What had happened? Who else hid out there? He pulled at the stakes. His hands shook as he tried to break free.
"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.
"Thank you."
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.


BIO:
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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/DonnaGalanti
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DonnaGalantiAuthor
Blog: http://blog.donnagalanti.com/wp/

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Shadow of Death (Parish & Richards 4) Excerpt


By Tim Ellis

Monday 30th May

 ‘Morning Mrs Parsons. I do believe you get lovelier every time you grace my shop with your presence.’
‘Harry Shanks you’re a rogue. You want to get yourself a nice young wife and have lots of children, instead of buttering up old folks like me.’
‘Other women are mere shadows in the brilliant light of your beauty. What’ll it be today then, Mrs Parsons?’
‘The liver and kidney with the bit of heart you gave me last time was very tasty, I’ll have some more of that if...’
‘Unfortunately, I’ve only got the liver and kidney. The heart only comes in on special delivery.’
‘I’ll have a quarter pound of the liver and kidney then, Harry.’
After Mrs Parsons had left the shop Marty said, ‘Will the new owners keep me on, do you think?’
‘I don’t know, Marty.’
‘So, what ya gonna do?’
‘Well, the first thing I’m gonna do, is find an apprentice that speaks proper English.’
‘Ha, ha. Yeah, good luck with that, Mr S.’
‘I fancy a change, Marty. My heart isn’t in butchering since my old dad died. I think I’d like to try something different.’
‘Like what?’
‘Well, first off, I might do a bit of travelling. Go and see what butchering is like in different parts of the world. Do you know that they eat fried cockroaches in Vietnam.’
‘Don’t be disgusting, Mr S.’
‘You need to open your mind, Marty.’
‘Well, good luck, Mr S. I hope you have a wicked time.’
‘Thank you, Marty... I think.’
  
***

 ‘Good morning,’ Chief Superintendent Abby Kirby said. ‘I know you’ve been through a difficult time since my friend and colleague Walter Day died. However, the Chief Constable has chosen me to replace him specifically because he knows that I’ll respect what Walter built up, and I know there are some good people here.’
‘You haven’t slept with her have you, Kowalski?’ Parish whispered.
‘The face doesn’t ring any bells, but then there’s been so many.’
‘Yeah, good one, Ray.’
‘Am I back with you, Sir?’ Richards said.
‘You won’t be if you keep talking while she’s talking.’
‘Huh!’
After the new Chief had introduced herself, and told everyone she’d walk round the station during the day and meet people, she approached Parish and took him by the elbow. ‘My office, Inspector.’
He followed her along the corridor. In her high heels, she was a couple of inches shorter than his six-foot one. Her hair was finger length, blonde with grey highlights, or the other way round. Anyway, he thought it suited her. He was also pleased that she was thin, probably a bit too thin if he was being honest, but certainly a big improvement on fatty Marshall. There were crow’s feet at the corners of her eyes, and laughter lines round her mouth. He decided that he liked her, but it all depended on what she said to him in the next five minutes.
‘Take a seat, Inspector Parish.’
Certainly a good start, he thought. Not only that, but she’d transformed fatty Marshall’s office back into Walter Day’s office. The carpet and paint were still new, but they’d needed replacing anyway. There was a new pane of glass in the door, and all the furniture had been put back into its familiar places – he felt at home again.
‘Coffee?’
‘Please.’ Yes, he decided that she was as warm as the coffee.
‘And don’t put four sugars in it when I’m watching.’
‘Okay, Chief.’
‘The Chief Constable has told me all about you and Constable Richards.’
He smiled like a used car salesman. ‘All good I hope?’
‘What do you think?’
‘I think you like me already.’
She put the coffee down in front of him.
‘Thank you.’ He put two sugars in the cup, and then when she turned to get her own coffee, he slipped another two in.
She sat down opposite him and smiled. ‘Here’s how it’s going to go, Inspector Parish. I’ll return everything to normal – if normal is the right word to use around you – but you have to promise not to make me look like an idiot before I retire.’
He took a swallow of his coffee. ‘I think I can promise that, Chief.’
‘Good, then I think we can work together.’
  
***

 ‘What did she say, Sir?’
‘She said you can work with me again.’
Richards jumped up and hugged him. ‘How great is that?’
‘But... there were a number of conditions.’
‘Oh?’
‘She said you have to go to counselling without fail...’
‘Okay.’
‘That you have to help me with the YCAP education and training initiative...’
‘Okay.’
‘That you have to stop annoying me, believe everything I say, and make me a coffee any time I ask.’
Richards laughed. ‘I bet she didn’t even mention me.’
‘She did so, Richards. She wanted to know why – when I could have my pick of wonderful partners – I worked with someone who was a pain in the arse and disobeyed orders at the drop of a hat.’
‘And what did you tell her?’
‘I told her that you were my kind of pain in the arse, Richards.’
‘I love you as well, Sir.’
‘I know you do. Right, coffee first, and then we’ll get down to some serious work.’
  
***

 Angkor, Cambodia

 ‘You’re a genius, Harry,’ Adrian said.
They had visited Angkor Wat earlier, not that they hadn’t seen it before a dozen times because they had, but the one thing that King Suryavarman II’s temple had in abundance was tourists – young female tourists especially. In fact, one of those tourists – a twenty-five-year-old American woman by the name of Lia Fairchild – lay naked and strapped to the Mortuary table he’d acquired from a strange Cambodian dealer with a hair lip and a glass eye.
She opened her mouth to scream.
‘You can scream as much as you want to because no one will hear you, but you should know that noise makes me angry, and when I get angry I will want to hurt you.’
She closed her mouth.
He ran his hands over her flat stomach, squeezed her breasts, and then bent down and kissed her lips. ‘That’s a good girl, I think we’re going to have a beautiful relationship.’ He began to chant:


Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil...

 Adrian walked to the other room and switched on the monitor. He sat in the executive leather chair and took out his bishop, which was nearly as hard as it could be. ‘Yes, do her good, Harry,’ he said. ‘Do her good.’

***

For more about Tim Ellis and his other books:
http://timellis.weebly.com/
http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Tim-Ellis/160147187372482



Saturday, February 11, 2012

Into Thin Air (Excerpt) by Valerie Maarten


(Freedom Fighters Series Bk. 1)

“Cute kid,” Paolo said as he watched Maia clutch the small child protectively to her bosom.
“What do you want?” Maia asked.
Paolo’s eyebrow went up fractionally at Maia’s tone.  But it was followed by a slow smile that belied the anger he felt at her continued refusal to submit to his authority.  It was a little game they played when they were together.  Deep down Paolo admired her courage.  She reminded him of himself when he was younger.  She would have made a great partner if he’d have met her under different circumstances.
He waved his hand in a sweeping motion, gesturing for her to have a seat, as if they were having a social chit-chat over lunch.  “Please…sit.”
Maia took a quick glance over at the chair he offered and shook her head.  “No thank you.  I’ll stand.”
Never releasing his pleasant smile, his tone changed and became more insistent.  It was a tone Maia could not mistake that she didn’t have a choice.  “Sit…I insist.”
Maia sat in the chair, but remained at the edge of the seat as she cradled a now, fully awake India in her lap.  India seemed to be oblivious to the danger they were in and began playing with Maia’s hair.  Maia didn’t seem to notice or mind, glad India did something to occupy her time instead of cry.  Because at this moment, Maia needed to keep her wits about her and remain vigilant and alert for what Paolo had planned for them both.
“Okay…I’m sitting.  Now, are you going to tell me why I was dragged out of my bed in the middle of the night?” Maia knew she was pushing her luck, but she felt she had nothing else to lose.  This very scene had been played out for her six years ago, only it was Gina sitting in this chair and she was standing next to her, oblivious to what was transpiring.
“Good news,” Paolo said to Gina as she sat nervously in the chair waiting for him to reveal why he’d summoned her and Maia to come to his office in the middle of the night.
“Wh…what?” Gina asked nervously.
Maia noted the quiver in Gina’s voice, but she didn’t understand the cause.  Good news could mean they would finally be allowed to go home.  Maia had prayed for this moment.  She and Gina had discussed leaving this place for good.
“You finally get what you’ve begged for…with one caveat,” Paolo said.
His tone was pleasant and he was smiling at Gina…then he’d smile at Maia.  The gesture was so kind, Maia smiled back.  Inside Maia felt her stomach flutter with butterflies, she was so nervous at the prospect of going home.  Would her mother still be angry that she disobeyed her?  Maia vowed she would never do it again.  This taught her one thing, her mother wasn’t as lame as she believed her to be.
“What caveat?” Gina asked.  She looked over at an anxious Maia and gave her a tentative smile.  It was meant to reassure Maia, but that one gesture changed everything Maia had been feeling inside.  There was something revealing in her eyes that told Maia she was not going home and the news was not good.
“Before I allow you to retire, you have to teach her some of the tricks of the trade,” Paolo said as he nodded his head in Maia’s direction.
“No…no.  I can’t.  Please…don’t ask me to do that,” Gina began to plead.  “She’s too young.”
“She’s got breasts, granted they’re small, but she’ll do for some of my more…eccentric clientele,” Paolo said.
Maia didn’t know what they were talking about, but she knew she had been insulted.  Subconsciously Maia looked down at her newly budding breasts and folded her arms over her chest.  Another thing she knew, she didn’t like being talked about when she was fully capable of deciding if she wanted to do something or not.
“What tricks?” Maia asked innocently.
Gina placed her hand on Maia’s leg, silencing anything else Maia would have said.  It was much like a mother would have done to a child that spoke out of turn when adults were talking.
Gina stood from the chair and held Maia’s hand tightly.  “I can’t do it.  I won’t do it.”
Paolo’s black eyes seemed to darken with Gina’s declaration.  It was an evil Maia had never seen before this moment.  Up until this point, Paolo had been fairly nice to her, though he continued to refuse her requests to be allowed to go home.  Still, to this point she had no reason to fear him until she saw that brief glimpse into the blackness inside his soul through his eyes.
Paolo gave his head a brief nod.  That was the first time Maia noticed the two men standing at the door behind them.  She didn’t know how long they had been there, but she couldn’t remember hearing them come in, so she surmised they had been there all along.  Funny, they were as huge as buildings, but managed to disappear into the background until they were summoned.  Maia watched as the one man walked up to the desk…pulled out his gun and pointed it at the back of Gina’s head.
One shot was fired behind her ear and she dropped to the ground, still clutching Maia’s hand.  The warm spray of blood splattered across the room, covering the left side of Maia’s hair, face and shirt.  But the shock of seeing Gina lay in a pool of blood prevented Maia from screaming or crying or running out of the room.
Instead, she watched as Gina’s baby blue eyes darkened as death slowly began to claim her.  Her chest heaved up…then down…then in a sudden whoosh of air it stopped.  In that moment, Maia remembered she was still gripping Gina’s hand, secretly willing the life back into the one person who cared for her from the moment she arrived to this side of hell.  Now Maia was all alone, abandoned to figure her way through the new life she was doomed to live.
“Take her to my room,” Paolo ordered the other man who stood in the corner.  “Make sure she’s ready for me when I get there.  I’ll just have to show her the tricks she needs to know myself.”
“You know my answer to your question,” Maia said to Paolo as he replayed the single, most devastating time of her life.  Now the tables were turned and she would be shot in the back of the head like Gina had been six years ago, while India is prepared by one of the guards to unceremoniously lose her virginity to a tyrant and a brutal child rapist…Paolo.
The memory prompted Maia to stand.  She no longer felt comfortable sitting.  She felt too vulnerable and at a disadvantage.  Would she wait for the moment to happen and fade into oblivion as Gina had done or would she defy death and fight?  I want to live Maia heard the little voice inside her head say.  Fight!