If you follow the link, you can see the great review of my latest novel, Dreaming Wide Awake. The story of a slightly psychic PI who unravels a mystery involving the secret government Stargate Project, (a remote viewing program) and finds it leading to the trail of a possible serial killer.
Solid 4 Stars! ****
A Grown-Up First Contact Story
Infinity 7 is a story about a man casting one arm into the future while gripping a guilt-ridden past, and he’s doing it while battling unforeseen obstacles which threaten a lifetime of achievements and he has to do it in a space environment, which carries it’s own set of problems. Smooth, polished writing, a strong sense of pacing, tension builds well. Both the main character’s grief and the technology throughout felt authentic, as well as the rounded supporting characters. Smart characterization and plausible downward spiral in a scientific research environment. There were a couple spots I found circumstances eddied a bit too long for my comfort, and a loose end with the smarteye camera that I wanted tired up at the end. But the ending, although a bit abrupt, was strong and cleverly done. I’ll be thinking about this story and the concepts it introduced me to for quite some time. Fantastic voice talent performance. Worth listening to this one. I’d read this author again.
I came upon the small man in a dream.
He squatted by a river teaming with fish. As he looked into the rippling waters, I asked him where he came from and he said, “It is a closed system. There was nothing before and something since. The idea was strong, intense and consuming. It took root in the soil of imaginings and grew by way of hopes and dreams, emotions, gradually taking form. This is the eye of man. It sees all in front of it, none behind and certainly not into tomorrow. It’s frightened by things it does not understand, is wary of new events, yet trudges on in hopes of finding sameness, a lack of pain, some joy, perhaps a feeling of enlightenment. Happiness even. It marvels at small acts of physical manipulation. It doesn’t know what’s best for it. And it dies, leaving behind that which it has created.”
“Do you mean to say I was born of an idea and am the eye of man?”
He looked at me with his white and tearing eyes, unable to make out my form and whispered, “Do you have a dime?”
I pushed him into the water and walked on.
New August Chase Detective novel. Out now!
(Warning sexual content R rated, I think)
She made a fire while he put away the groceries. She knelt in front of the hearth and he watched her out of the corner of his eye, pleased she was with him.
“How about sautéed chicken and pasta?” he asked.
She nodded. “That sounds good.”
“I bought crusty bread.” He held up the uncut loaf, but she’d turned toward the fire.
The icy wind, when it gusted, could be felt coming in under the door. “I’ll have to put the storm door on tomorrow,” he said, pouring a small amount of olive oil in the large black skillet.
She stood looking at the flames as they grew higher, the tips lapping the top of the fireplace lintel. Her outline reflected golden in the light from the fireplace.
“You’re using too much kindling,” he said. “We don’t want flames shooting up that chimney, it’s old, needs to be cleaned.”
She took an iron poker from the set and knocked down some of the kindling. The flames receded, but burning sticks fell onto the floor in front of the sofa. Garret ran over and kicked them back into the fireplace. Rose stood back, her eyes wide as she stared at the flames. He took the poker from her and smiled. “It’s something you get used to. How much kindling to use.”
She walked into the bedroom and closed the door. Garret lit the gas burner under the pan and when the pan was hot, he laid the chicken breasts side by side, and sprinkled them with salt and pepper.
After a few minutes, he left the stove to peer into the bedroom. She lay on her side, covered by blankets. Her clothes were in a pile at the foot of the bed. The floor creaked where he stood and she turned. Her eyes were sleepy. She smiled and waved him over. Smoke began to come from the pan and he ran over and pulled it off the hot burner. He placed a cover over the partially cooked chicken and turned back to the bedroom.
There was a slight chill in the bedroom. He sat next to her on the bed and ran his hand over the covers, down her side and hips, to her legs. She lay with her head resting on her right arm, her eyes barely open.
“Do you want-” he started to say, but she put a finger to his lips. She pulled the covers back. Her naked body dimly lit from the window. She placed his hand on her breast. Her skin was cool and dry. He removed his clothing, letting his pants drop where he stood, and flung them aside. He sat next to her and kissed her side, her hip, her breasts, then turned her onto her back. He climbed into the bed and slid on top of her. She received him as he had hoped, warmly, lovingly, without words. He grabbed the covers and pulled them over his back.
“I want-” he started to say, but again, she held her finger to his mouth. He gently kissed it. She rubbed her finger on his lips, feeling the gentle undulation of his philtrum. She drew her finger across his cheeks, and pulled him close as she stared into his eyes. She brought her lips up to meet his and they kissed for a long time. Her mouth was small and warm, her lips full. He could feel her lips move and press into him as they kissed. She was passionate and strong, growing more aggressive. He locked his eyes onto her blue-white irises and pressed himself into her.
She gasped as she fully received him, then closed her eyes and kissed his neck. He gently turned her head to face him. They moved in rhythm, their hips together, in a slow dance. They were lost to time, but floated above, locked in a moment of total joy. When they felt, as one, the orgasm coming, he said, “Look at me.” She opened her eyes and they stared at each other as he released. When they were finished, he kissed her on the lips, and they lay in each other’s arms, their bodies glistening with sweat. They listened to the wind rustling through the trees and shrubs outside, cleansing the air, cooling the earth.
At first he thought the banging on the porch was a tree branch blown in on the wind, but he quickly realized it was footsteps. A man’s footfalls rang hollow on the porch. He sat up. More banging. Garrett got dressed, and stood in the bedroom doorway, trying to see out through the windows. It was still light outside, although the cottage was in the shadow of the pine trees, and cloud cover obscured the sun. The man leaned in and looked through the window. Garrett walked to the front door and waited. A loud knock came. He opened the door and stood looking at Bill.
“You have my wife?”
“I don’t know, do I?”
“Is she your wife?”
“Let me see her.”
“She doesn’t want to see you.”
“That’s not for you to say.”
“And yet, I said it.”
Bill tried to push past Garrett, but couldn’t move him. They grabbed each other’s shirts and as they struggled, stumbled into the kitchen. Rose stood in the bedroom doorway, staring at them. When they finally let go of each other, Bill turned to her. “Come on. We’re going home.”
She turned and walked into the bedroom. He tried to follow, but Garrett wrapped an arm around his neck. They fell back against the stove, pots and pans slamming onto the floor. In a headlock, Bill screamed for Rose, but Garrett held him tighter. Bill kicked the sink and pushed back, knocking them both into the table. Garett hurt his back, but didn’t let go. He tightened his arms. Bill thrashed back and forth, but couldn’t get free. Garrett held on until the man fell silent. Garrett fell on top of him, his hands squeezing his neck, his weight pressed on him.
Rose came out of the bedroom and stood silently watching. After a few minutes, she said, “Let him up.”
Garrett looked up at her and then down at the man he was still choking. His hands fell away. The man beneath him held no breath, showed no evidence of life. His chest was still. Garrett got to his feet and staggered to the sink. He pumped water and put his head under the spout. Rose knelt at Bill’s side and shook him. “Bill. Wake up.” She rubbed his hands, then felt for a pulse, but there was none. “You’ve killed him.”
Garrett pushed the wet hair from his eyes and shook his head. “No. He’s all right.”
“No, look at him. He’s not breathing.”
Garrett knelt down and felt for a pulse on Bill’s neck, but couldn’t find any. He sat back on his heels.
“Do something,” she said.
“What do you want me to do?”
Garrett got to his feet and walked to the door and opened it. He took several deep breaths of the cold air, then turned to her. “He can’t be dead. I didn’t do anything.”
She pressed on Bill’s chest, but he was a dead lump. Nothing moved. He was stone. She stood up and ran into the bedroom.
“Don’t leave him. Do something.”
She came into the kitchen holding a pillow and placed it under Bills neck, “You killed him!”
Garrett dripped water on the corpse. The dead man’s lips were blue, his face speckled with red. He got down on his knees and pressed the man’s chest. He pressed hard, trying to bring him back. He punched his chest and forced opened his mouth and blew into him, but didn’t really know what he was doing.
After a few minutes, he gave up trying to resuscitate him, walked to the fireplace and, somehow, he didn’t remember how, the whiskey bottle came down from the mantle and was in his hands. He drank a quarter of the bottle before he lifted his lips away. He took a long, slow breath, the sting of the alcohol making it difficult to take in air. He sat on the sofa and stared at the dwindling fire. When he looked up again, she was standing above him, her strange eyes glaring in the dull light. “We have to do something.”
Garrett shook his head and took another long swig of the whiskey.
“No? Are you saying no, you won’t do anything?”
“What do you want me to do?”
“We have to get rid of him.”
He got to his feet and faced her. “What should I do, huh? You want me to throw him in the current, let it take him out to sea? Because that just brought you here, didn’t it?”
“No.” She put her hands on his cheeks, and squared her stare at him, trying to think. “We can bury him.”
He stood and pushed her away. “I’ll call the Sherriff. Turn myself in.”
“Garrett, no. You can’t. They’ll put you away.”
“It was an accident. They can figure that out.”
“You think they’ll buy that? You fucked his wife, then you strangled him dead.”
Garrett stared into the fire, and took another long pull on the bottle. “So, you are his wife?”
She glared at him for a second, then said, “Okay, I’ll do it. I’ll take care of him.”
She walked over to Bill’s corpse and tried to lift it. She grabbed him under the arms and dragged him halfway to the door, when Garrett cleared his throat and coughed. She turned to him.
“Where’s what’s his face, Jack?” he asked.
“I don’t know. He’s not here.”
“How do you know? He came with him last time. He’s his brother, isn’t he? And he knows about us.”
“It doesn’t matter. He’s not here. We never saw Bill, that’s all. That’s how it ends.”
“What about his boat? He had to have brought a boat.”
“We’ll sink it.”
“When we went to town, there were people that saw us together.”
“They don’t know who I am.”
Garrett went to the porch window and stared down at the dock, instinctively checking the tide level, to see how much of the cove at the dock was visible. It was mid-tide. The beach would be four more feet visible in a few hours. How far out could he sink the body without worrying where it may come up? Should he use rocks? An old anchor would be better. Gathering the information he had at hand, what his life had come to, adding it all up, he any way he looked at it, he held a losing hand. “You can tell them we didn’t have sex. They won’t check your body.” His arguments rang hollow. The inevitable truth of his downward spiral hit him, like a spider web he’d snagged on the trail. Invisible. Sticky. He’d never seen it coming.
“I don’t think he’s dead,” he said.
He walked over to Bill and took him under the arms and dragged him into the bedroom. He lifted him off the floor and onto the bed. He rolled the body into place and sat next to it, breathing heavy from the exertion. He took Bill’s arm and held it, feeling for a pulse. After a few minutes, Garrett laid down next to Bill and stared at the ceiling. The light was fading fast and the room was darker. Rose stood at the foot of the bed.
“We can bury him,” she said.
“The soil is too rocky.”
“We can take him out to the yard. Bury him under the woodpile.”
“I didn’t squeeze him that hard.”
“Whatever you did, he’s dead. Where is there a place with no rocks?”
He continued to stare at the ceiling, talking as if to himself, now. “I started a garden a while back. Behind the woodshed. I never planted anything. I wanted to grow sunflowers. The rocks have been cleared.”
“Good. We can bury him there.”
“He’s not dead.”
“Yes, he is. I checked.”
“No, there’s a faint pulse. He’ll be okay in a while.”
She took Bills wrist and felt for the artery. After a few minutes she let it drop. “There’s no pulse.”
“I felt it.” He looked at Rose, who stood at the side of the bed now, a stern look on her face. Or was it resolve?
“Go. Get out of here. I need to sleep.”
“You’re not going to sleep next to Bill, that way. How much did you have to drink?”
“I doesn’t matter. When Bill wakes up, we’ll feed him and send him on his way.” Garrett closed. He could feel her staring at him. He popped his eyes open and said, “You can go with him, too.” He closed his eyes until he heard Rose leave, then he opened them again and stared at the ceiling. He didn’t move for a very long time, just watched the shadows moving on the ceiling, then eventually he closed his eyes and fell asleep.
After a few minutes of staring at the bathroom door, the cracked and faded white paint ignited memories of summer nights spent with his wife in a similar cabin, on a similar island not quite two miles from where he lay. His wife’s soft features backlight from the window, her gentle smile, her delicate hands and long fingers as they found his. The familiar sensation of mounting sexual anticipation caused him to harden.
He heard water trickling onto the shower stall and it brought him back to the present. After a few minutes he hollow ring of the metal enclosure softened and he knew she stepped under the spout.
Her teasing had ignited strong desire, it ran through him like a thirst. But it wasn’t a desire for sex as much as a desire to travel back to a better time. It had been years since he’d been sober when making love to a woman, and now, in the next room, as she stood naked under that dribbling stream, as he imagined her skin glistening with foamy soap, it was all he could do to keep from going to her, ripping the plastic shower curtain aside, and taking her. Then he wished it was his wife standing under that stream, and shame came upon him. She was a stranger.
He lay down on the bed and closed his eyes. Grief shrouded his heart and today. The desire for love thrust him back into loneliness. It ran through him like a current. Beaten down by memories that bit at him, he closed his eyes and felt the embrace of his wife. Her body warm and soft in his hands. The soft smell of her perfumed skin, familiar and perfect in his memory.
A bang against the shower stall caused him to open his eyes and stare at the wall in front of him. He could call the police, have them come to the island, but for what? She hadn’t broken any laws, and it was her word against her husband’s any abuse had taken place. He’d observed no bruises on her, except on her head. She could have hit that on anything. She was well-developed, no sign of an eating disorder or malnutrition. She appeared perfectly normal in most ways, except one. And that abnormal part, the compulsion to come back to his island and present herself to him, not only made him wary, but enlivened him, jolted his nerves and he feared the entanglements she might bring. Why should he get between a man and his wife? It didn’t matter if he beat her or not. Didn’t it take two to ruin a marriage? But he knew that was wrong. It only took one. The abuser.
The scar just above his left hip ached, and he moved onto his back. It had taken fifteen stitches to close the semi-circle of wounds, when he’d woken up from a blackout. It was in the alley behind a dive bar on 57th street, early last year. He bled in the cab on the way to the hospital. The driver kept looking in the rearview, his eyes wide, trying to see if that was actually blood, and swearing loudly about the clean-up he’d have to do.
The doctor at the hospital didn’t really care how it happened, but he had to ask anyway. Garrett didn’t remember, the truth at the time. Later, as he sat in bed, as the lidocaine wore off and his wound began to ache, he remembered the bet he’d made, with a drinking buddy, that he could pull his pants down and run across the alley, touch his hip on a lamp post and make it back to the bar in under ten seconds. He smiled as he remembered the look of surprise on his friends face when he’d actually pulled his pants down around his ankles and ran across the alley, his penis flapping, legs stretched far as possible, hindered by the pants. Then he remembered the fall and the sting of broken glass as it pierced his side. He thought it was funny until the pain set in and blood began to soak his shirt. When he looked up from his fall, still sitting in the alleyway, the small crowd that had gathered to watch the fool do his trick were gone. He was alone, pieces of glass from a smashed bottle of schnapps embedded in his side.
Now, as he lay waiting for his uninvited guest to exit the shower, it seemed ten years since that incident, instead of ten months, and he realized how closely he still teetered on that line he dared not cross. The booze would end him the next time he fell, of that, he was sure. If he started drinking again, especially here on the island, the one place he felt safe and himself, he didn’t think he could stop.
The door to the bathroom opened, and she stood naked in front of him. He stared at her breasts, white-lined at the top where her bathing suit ended, then her dark nipples, slightly erect in the coolness of the room, at her stomach, flat and smooth, the skin darker then he’d expected, the small bellybutton, slightly protruding outward, and just below that, he followed the line of her inner hip through the tan lines there, down to her dark, neatly trimmed pubis. She smiled slightly and walked toward him. He sat still, his hands by his side, as she moved to him and stood close, her breast near his mouth. He pulled her close, sliding his face across her breast, his hands moving around, down to her hips. He held her there for a moment, his mouth on her tummy, breathing in her fresh scent, then turned his head away. “No,” he said, and pushed her back. She took a step away, looking him in the eyes, her expression openly confused for a moment before going blank. He turned his back to her and stared out the window. The yard was quiet. The breeze moved the tall grass. A chipmunk moved along the woodpile and disappeared in a crevasse of wood. Rose sat next to him and dried her hair with a towel.
“Put something on,” he said.
She silently got up and slipped into her clothes. He ached to touch her, could feel the want, like a sucking monster inside. It took hold of him and he thought for a moment he would go to her, but he let the monster stir, but die of neglect. His eyes never left the window. Thin clouds moved slowly toward the West.
Now fully dressed, she walked to the door and stopped to look at him. He felt her stare and looked up. She smiled, then walked out the door, leaving it slightly open. He sat in the room for a long time watching the clouds, the bushes angered by the wind. When finally he got up, the sun was almost directly overhead. He’d been sitting for longer then he knew. He stood in the doorway and watched her as she shuffled cards at the kitchen table.
“Why did you come back?”
“I didn’t come back. I escaped him and this is where I ended up.”
“I can’t have it.”
She held the few remaining cards in her hand and looked at him, her eyes pleading. “He beats me.”
“Beside the point.”
“He’ll kill me.”
“Where are the marks?”
She threw down the cards and pulled the hair apart on the left side of her head. Just above her ear, the scalp was red. A curved welt revealed through her spread fingers.
“He did that?”
“His belt buckle.” She stared defiantly at him. Tears filled her eyes, but she wiped them with the back her hand and dealt the cards. When all the cards lay in a pile on the table, he sat down across from her. He sorted his cards until they were in a neat stack, then he threw down the king of spades from the top. She threw down the ace of diamonds and smiled. “You owe me a truthful thing about yourself.”
He nodded at her, staring into her strange light-blue eyes. “Go ahead, ask.”
She offered a slight smile. “How did you like it when I touched you?”
“You never touched me.”
“You wanted me to.”
“Did you want to?”
“Not really,” she said, looking demurely down at her hand. She shuffled the cards again.
The wind picked up and something hit the side of the cottage. He went to the windows and looked out, following the trail with his eyes down to the dock. The bushes and trees swayed in the strong gusts. White caps dotted the bay. “The wind has shifted.”
He’d leave his traps for another day. He turned to her. She sat with her back to him, looking at her cards. “I was going to go into town to buy some supplies. You can come, tell your story to the sheriff.”
She scoffed. “Why don’t I just hang myself?”
“Well, why the hell did you go with them, then?”
“They’d blame you. I didn’t want you to get hurt.”
“Maybe. But, you can’t stay here. Don’t tell the sheriff, it’s up to you, but I can’t help you.”
“Did I ask for your help?”
“Don’t be an idiot.”
She stood and threw the cards onto the table. The wind hit the cottage again. A loose windowpane trembled. After a few seconds she said, “I’ll go to town, but I’m not talking to the cops.”
“Fine.” He reached for the list off the table, but she snatched it up and began reading.
“Why an aluminum pole?” she asked.
“Ask your friend, Jack.”
“He’s Bill’s friend, not mine.”
“I thought they were brothers.”
“What does Jack have to do with the pole?”
“He tore down my antenna.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because it’s broken and he’s the only one who could have done it.”
He reached for his coat hanging by the door, then went to the back shed and got another jacket for her. She put on the blue windbreaker. It fit loosely around her frame and made her look small, fragile even.
He walked quickly, deliberately fast, like he was trying to get away from her. She followed him down the path leading to the boat, He held the small craft steady as she got in. Once settled, the wind blowing their faces red, their hair waving in the wild breeze, he pulled the starter and the engine coughed, then started, blowing blue smoke into the air. He reversed the boat, the waves slapping the stern, water spaying them. Finally, he thrust it into forward and they were off.
“How do you know which way to go?” she asked.
“I follow the path in the water, he said. ” She turned and smiled at him. He smiled back. “Can’t you see it?”
She turned back, and looked straight ahead, her face in the freezing wind, and said nothing else.
The small whitecaps rocked the boat and she held on, her hands gripping both gunwales, as water spray dampened her wind-tossed hair. She sat rigid, like a dog in the wind, he thought, staring straight ahead, never daring to move or look around.
When they reached the harbor and tied up at the public dock, he saw her hands were stiff and her face was cherry red. She rubbed her hands together and flexed her fingers. As they walked to his truck, he looked around for men who might be waiting for them, but saw no one of consequence. The small shack in the parking lot was dark. The man overseeing the operation was sitting with his legs up on the porch rail drinking coffee and chatting with another man, with whom Garrett was vaguely familiar. He waved to them and continued walking to his truck, the girl close behind.
They said nothing as he drove them into town, his old pick-up comfortable, if not a bit rocky. “You need new shocks,” she said. He grunted and kept driving without saying anything. They stopped in front of the Sheriff’s office. The girl looked straight ahead, as if they were waiting at a light. After a few minutes, he turned to her. “Do you want to go in?”
He put the truck in gear and they headed to the hardware store.
After loading the truck with the new aluminum tubing and cable and other supplies, they headed for the grocery store. In the check-out line, as he was paying for their supplies, a tall man with dark hair walked into the store. He stood at the door, near the checkout and waved to Garrett. When the six bags were loaded into the cart, Garrett stopped next to Jim. “Jim, how are you?”
“Got a day off, been busy otherwise. Who’s your friend?”
Garrett turned to Rose, who partially hid behind him. “This is Rose. She’s my wife’s cousin, from Boston.”
Rose nodded at Jim. He reached to shake her hand, and his gun became visible under his jacket, on his belt. Garrett saw her bristle at the weapon and said, “Jim’s a Deputy Sherriff.”
“Off duty. Right now, I’m just a guy getting food for the family.”
After a few minutes of small talk, Garrett said, “Well, good to see you, Jim.”
They nodded at each other and Garrett and Rose walked back to the truck. She slammed the door closed as she got in. Garrett loaded the back with the bags and closed the tailgate and got in on the driver’s side and turned the key. “We can get lunch over there if you want.” He pointed to the Woodbine Café, a place he frequented on trips to the mainland. She looked straight ahead and said nothing.
He turned to her and she looked at him for the first time. He saw fear and hate in her eyes, and he knew she was going to accuse him of setting up the chance meeting with the Deputy in the store. “I didn’t know he’d be there,” he said, wanting to cut her off before she said anything. “Besides, you’re on the mainland, you need to go. Find your family and stay there, they can help you.”
“What do you know about my family?”
“Look, I told you before-”
She got out, slammed the door shut and walked down the sidewalk to the street corner. She stood under the Woodbine sign, and bummed a cigarette from a young man as he passed by. They talked as he lit her cigarette. She seemed flirty, like she’d go anywhere with him and Garrett didn’t like what he was seeing. He shut off the truck and walked over to them. Rose turned away as he approached. He touched her shoulder. “Let’s get going, Rose.”
She looked at him, while closing one eye and taking a deep drag of the cigarette. The young man felt the possessive vibe from Garrett and silently turned and walked into the Woodbine.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Nothing. I’m not doing anything.”
“Get in the truck.”
“Yes, just get in.”
She tossed the cigarette and he placed his hand on her arm as they walked back to the truck. They sat silently, the engine idling. She turned on the radio. A rock tune blared from the speakers. She turned it up. Garett leaned in and shut it off. “I don’t know what your game is, but latching onto the first person you see isn’t a healthy thing to do.”
They let the irony of that statement sink in, then he added, “You lucked-out with me. I only want to help you. But others, they’ll hurt you, use you…” he involuntarily looked at her body and she got the message. She sent a message back. She knew the power she held over men. It was obvious.
They sat in silence for a while and when he took a breath to say something else she said, “He’s not my husband.”
“We’re not married. Only in his head. He’s got a fantasy that he’s married to me because he said so. But we’re not married.”
“I just want to make that clear. He has no hold on me.”
“He shouldn’t hurt you, either way.”
They sat staring out the front windshield. He wasn’t sure what to do, drop her off somewhere or take her back to the island. A cold front was moving in. The clouds were high and thready. People dressed in fall clothing walked the sidewalks, cars stopped and started, smoke rose from tailpipes. He couldn’t think of what else to say that wouldn’t spoil things, in his mind. He wanted her, and he knew he could have her. All he had to do was listen to what she was saying. Desire flamed up in him and he glanced at her knee. She wore jeans, but he they were thin. He wanted to touch that knee, slide his hand up to her thigh, feel the soft flesh there. These thoughts surprised him. He knew it was wrong. The whole thing was wrong. It was like she was a gift. One that could make him feel so much better, fill his emptiness, but he didn’t trust any of it.
“I really don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said. After a few minutes she added, “My sister lives in Portland, but she’s gone away with her husband for a week. They went to Florida on vacation. Guess I’ll go there when she’s back.” She turned to him and he saw her hopefulness. “Otherwise, I have nowhere else to go.” She touched his thigh, and smiled. “Besides, I can help you chop wood.”
She adjusted closer to him, and he could feel the heat of her. For a few moments, his crushing loneliness was replaced by her warmth.
“Let’s just go,” she said.
He nodded and put the truck in gear.
The soft touch of her hand caressed the back of my neck as I sat upon the bed in the dim light of the evening lamp, a cool breeze coming from the open window, the street noises occasionally echoing in the halls of my room, the dull low rumble of the city layered below. Shivers ran down my spine and the hairs on the back of my head stood up. It was a perfect spring evening with the scent of cross pollination in the air. Budding trees held new shiny leaves just outside the window. She leaned into my naked back and her warmth met mine in perfect contour. She melted into me. I felt the dread of loneliness then. The emptiness of being one, alone, not sharing, no one to care what happens in my world but myself, and sometimes even I don’t care, capitulation being a long tradition running through my life. Scattered pictures of her embrace echoed in the darkness of my dream.
Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of “Dream State” by Charles R Hinckley.
4 out of 4 stars
When August was almost thirty years of age, he started experiencing intense dreams of people dying. Initially, he merely thought they were nightmares. Then, a dream about the death of a young woman named Emma began repeating. Because they were incredibly vivid and believable, he started looking for the place of her death, discovered it, and later was able to find her. Regrettably, she thought he was creepy and didn’t believe him. Sadly, dreams of her soon stopped because of her murder. This dream was followed by one of a man named Carrillo, who was observed dying from a car accident. August tracked him down; instead of listening and using the information to save himself, Carrillo threatened to injure him. A short time afterward, Carrillo died in the foreseen car accident.
August is tired of no one believing him and being unable to alter the outcome of his dreams. Realizing he possesses an ability for finding people and wanting to utilize his gift constructively, August decides to become a “Psychic Detective.” Subsequently, he places an ad in the paper. His first client is a creepy, morbidly obese hoarder by the name of Frank, who had something tragic happen in his childhood and has been haunted since. He is hoping August can dream about that event and figure out what to do to get his life back on track. Then, Emma’s sister, Carla, requests his help in apprehending Emma’s killer since the police are getting nowhere. Although she is gorgeous and August feels drawn to her, she is not entirely forthcoming with information. With his friend Mill, a retired computer tech millionaire, August begins trying to solve both cases. However, there is a lot more to being a detective than he had realized, including dangerous situations.
At 301 pages, Dream State: The Sleeping Detective Series Book One by Charles R. Hinckley is a thrilling and suspenseful crime novel with aspects of paranormal activity, romance, and humor mixed in. The author’s prose is highly descriptive and easy to understand. Although the first book in the series, it is a standalone novel with the salient points answered satisfactorily by the end. It transports readers into August’s world and holds them captivated as he solves his cases, frequently making rookie mistakes. The suspense represented my favorite aspect of the book as the novel kept me tense and spellbound.
The character development is superb in the novel. Because it is narrated from August’s first-person point of view, we are able to understand his thinking and motives. Although unsure of himself and frequently rushing into things without a clear plan, he has the best of intentions. His loyal friend Mill supports him every step of the way, even being willing to endanger himself; however, this may partially be because he is lonely, bored, and craves excitement. Their humorous repartee lightens the mood.
Because August wasn’t typically given the luxury of knowing the names of the people in his dreams, he assigned them nicknames like “Skateboard Kid” and “Motorcycle Jacket.” Most of the time, these were not disparaging. Frank’s name was known; nonetheless, August nicknamed him “Fat Man,” though not to his face. This was unnecessary and derogatory, and there are people who will be offended by it. It was one of the few things I disliked about the book.
I encountered a few minor grammatical and punctuation errors, which were not distracting; it was most likely professionally edited. Therefore, Dream State: The Sleeping Detective Series Book One achieves a rating of four out of four stars. It doesn’t deserve anything less because it is also intriguing and difficult to put down. It is enthusiastically recommended to readers who enjoy paranormal novels with suspense and mystery. Frequent profanities, some violence, and occasional sex scenes (not overly explicit) are encountered in the story. Subsequently, it is unsuitable for children and sensitive readers.
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He stood on the trail and waited for the men to tie up and approach. A tall, lean man, about thirty-five came first, followed by a short, stocky fellow wearing a black leather jacket. The jacket seemed out of place on the Maine coast, more appropriate for a motorcycle. They walked slowly toward him and he decided to meet them before they got too close.
“How do?” he said.
“Fair to middling,” said the tall man. They stopped a few feet from him and looked over his shoulder, to the cottage. The stocky guy seemed agitated and sweaty. He chewed a toothpick, turning it with his tongue until the splintered side hung out, then turned it back again. The tall guy was slick and calm, a wry smile on his face.
“This is private property, I suppose you know?”
“We’re looking for a missing woman. She fell off a boat a few days ago.”
He smiled, and almost laughed at the man’s statement. “A woman fell off a boat? Like a cruise ship, or something? I heard that happens quite a bit.”
“She fell off my trawler.”
“How big is that? A fishing trawler, sport, or what?”
“Sport, I guess. Forty-two foot.”
“Sounds nice. No railings, though, huh?”
The two men stared at him. Stocky Guy stopped chewing the splintered toothpick and spit it out. Tall Guy’s eyes watered, like he was biting the inside of his cheek and was trying to hide the pain.
“Well, I haven’t heard anything from the coast guard. You called them, right? They usually call me right away, someone falls off a boat around here.”
The stocky guy grunted and spit. “Are we amusing you?”
“Are we amusing you in some way or something?”
“No, of course not. It’s just a strange story. Think I’d have heard about a man-overboard situation.”
“Well, we had one. Checking all the islands near the mishap,” Tall Guy said.
“Good plan,” he said. “Where’d you say this happened?”
Tall Guy pointed out at the bay. “A few miles -”
“Who’s the girl?” The stocky one interrupted, and nodded toward the cottage.
“Well, that’s an interesting question. Seems she fell off a boat a few days ago and doesn’t remember much else. Said somebody was gonna come looking for her. That you?”
“Why didn’t you say so?” Tall Guy asked.
“I just did.”
“Is she all right?”
He was looking for signs of relief or joy, but observed none. “Depends on who’s asking.”
“I’m her husband.” Tall Guy said. “I’m Bill and this is my brother, Jack.” The stocky guy nodded.
“Does she have some sort of medical condition, makes her forget things?”
“No,” Bill said. “Why?”
“Well, she doesn’t seem to know where she came from, or remember anything before the other night.”
Bill shook his head, then glanced at Jack, who just squinted. “We’ll get her to a doctor.”
“That’s a good idea.”
Bill started walking toward the house, but he stepped in from of him. “Why don’t I go talk to her, tell her you’re here and we can go from there?”
“Are you kidding me?” Jack asked.
“What’s going on?” Bill asked.
“Well, she’s a bit skittish since she came on shore. Spooks easily. The shock of seeing you might make her worse.”
“Are you serious?” Bill asked.
“What’s your name, again?” he asked.
“Bill. What’s your name?”
“Garrett what?” asked Jack.
Garrett looked at him and then turned toward the cottage. “Wait here. I’ll get Jane,” he said.
“Who’s Jane?” asked Bill.
“Isn’t that her name?”
“No, my girl’s named, Rose. Rose Matheson.”
“Well, maybe two different girls fell overboard. This one’s named Jane.”
Garrett walked up the path toward the cottage. Jack and Bill started to walk with him, but Garrett turned and they stopped. “Just wait here. I’ll see if Jane wants to come see you.”
“If Jane wants to…” mumbled Jack. He took a step closer to Garrett, but Bill grabbed him by the arm.
“Go, go ahead. We’ll wait,” said Bill.
“You sure?” asked Garrett, looking Bill in the eye. Bill looked to the cottage, then back at Garrett and nodded. He turned slowly and walked up the hill.
She was building a fire when he walked in. On her knees, prodding the kindling with a poker. She didn’t look up when he shut the door. “Those two, they the one’s coming for you?” he asked. She shrugged and said nothing. “You want to tell me what’s going on?” She ignored him, poked at the fire with a piece of kindling. “What happened the other night? Were you trying to escape something? Were you pushed off that boat? What happened, Rose?”
She stood and turned to him. “Don’t call me that.”
“That’s your name isn’t it? Rose. Or are they the liars?” She looked at the window, but he knew she couldn’t see them from where she stood. “Why wasn’t the Coast Guard called?”
“I don’t know,” she said.
“They want to come up here, to take you back.”
Foot falls rang hollow on the front porch. She turned quickly toward the sound, her eyes lit like firecrackers.
“This is all pretty dramatic, don’t you think, Jane, Rose or whatever your name is?” She wrapped her arms around herself and stood watching the door. “Why don’t we all sit down and have a cup of coffee and talk about it?”
“Fine, I’ll tell them to go.”
“No,” she said. “I’ll see them. Stay by me.” He nodded and they walked to the door. He could see the men standing on the porch, talking quietly.
“If you don’t want to go, just say so and I’ll tell them to leave.”
She nodded and stood guilelessly in front of the door, waiting for Garret to open it. The men on the porch turned and looked at her as she stepped outside. She let out a little gasp and held her hand to her mouth when she saw Bill. He took hold of her hand and kissed it.
“Rose. Are you okay?”
“Yes.” She flung herself against him and they hugged for a long time. Then she turned to Garrett and smiled. “I’ll go now. Thanks for all your help.”
Garrett was stunned by her quick turnaround. He was sure she would reject Bill and wanted to stay on the island. Then he realized that notion was a fantasy. She had to go. She wasn’t meant for him, no matter how lonely he was or how she made him feel alive again.
“Don’t forget your clothes,” Garratt said, and walked back into the cottage. He went to the bedroom and gathered her clothes drying in the bathroom, and returned to the porch. Jane was wandering toward where they’d picked the berries, Bill close behind her, apparently pleading his case. Jack stood near the porch and looked up a Garrett.
“What’s going on?” asked Garrett.
“I don’t know,” Jack said, and sat down on the steps.
“Is she all right? I mean, does she have mental problems?” asked Garrett.
Jack turned his head slowly, deliberately and looked at Garrett. “Why would you say something like that?”
“Her memory. She doesn’t seem to recall anything that happened the night she fell overboard. If that’s what happened.”
“She’s fine,” Jack said. He reached out and snatched a piece of tall grass and stuck it in his mouth, gnashing it between his teeth. Bill and Rose stood high up on the path and talked. Jane seemed frightened, forlorn even. She turned to go further down up the path, but Bill took hold of her arm. She lifted it away from him and he grabbed her by the shoulder and spin her around to face him. Garrett walked down the porch steps and started to call her name, when Jack stood and touched his shoulder.
“Let them be,” Jack said.
“Who the hell are you?” Garrett asked, and started to walk toward the couple. Jack stood in Garrett’s path and looked him in the eye.
“She’s his wife,” Jack said.
Garrett stopped dead and watched the couple continue to argue. Then he called out to her. “Jane, are you all right?” They both looked at him, spoke a few more words to each other, then walked back toward the cottage. Garrett held her clothes loosely in his right hand. Bill walked over to him and grabbed the bundle. Garret held on tight.
“Her things.” Bill stared into Garrett’s eyes, almost testing him to do something about it. Garrett let go of the clothes and walked over to her.
“Are you okay?” he asked her. She looked unhappily at him and nodded, but said nothing. “Is this man your husband?” he asked, pointing to Bill. She nodded, yes. “Are you happy to go with him?” She seemed to think for a second, then nodded in the affirmative.
“I’m leaving now,” she said in a robotic tone. “Thanks for all your help. I’m sorry if I’ve been a burden.”
“No, you haven’t been a burden. I’m concerned.”
She cocked her head and gave him an inquisitive look. “Oh,” she said. Before he could say anything more, Bill took her arm and steered her toward the path leading to the dock. She turned and looked toward Garrett, a faint smile pulling up the corners of her mouth, then she turned away, her hair blowing the breeze. Jack followed dutifully behind, holding her clothes under his arm.
Garrett watched the strangers take her onto the small boat and push off from the dock. They made the rookie mistake of not starting the outboard until they were clear of shore, and the boat started to drift in the current. Bill pushed off a large rock while Jack yanked on the outboard starter rope. Garrett would have been amused, had the circumstance not been so unsettling. The engine finally cranked up in a fit of blue smoke and the boat roared off.
He stood at the top of the trail, watching until they were out of sight, then turned and walked back to the cottage.
Suddenly, he felt alone, and small, unsettled even. He looked up at the cottage, framed against the tumultuous cloud formations running across the sky, and he wished for his wife. She would have made the cottage a home. As he measured his loneliness against the promise off what could have been, he noticed something looked askew. The cottage profile was different. Then he realized the antenna for his CB radio wasn’t where it should be.
He walked to the side of the cottage and stood staring at the broken antenna. It was severely bent down in the middle, the tip touched the ground. There were no broken branches or any indication of what may have brought it down. He’d been through worse storms than the one last night, and the antenna had weathered well. Then he noticed marks on the side of the antenna. They were laid in black, and appeared to be finger prints made with tar. Upon further inspection, he realized the tar he’d laid down at the base of the antenna had been disturbed by someone’s hand and that hand had brought down his antenna. Garrett looked out at the bay to see if any boats loitered off shore, but saw none.
The violation of his equipment sent a jolt of anger through him. Jack, the round little man, had done this while he’d been in the house talking to the girl. How had he done it so quietly? He remembered seeing a bit of black on Jack’s shirt. Garret had thought it paint stains. Now he knew, the tar had come off the antenna and onto Jack’s hand. The proof was in front of him. On the ground near the antenna, in a tall patch of grass, he found a log and realized it was used to leverage the antenna back into a fold. He was flush with anger as he carried the log to the woodshed and dumped back it inside.
After retrieving a roll of scotch tape from the cottage, he stood by the antenna and pulled two pieces from the dispenser and sealed them together, making a wider strip. Pressing the tape onto the fingerprint, he carefully lifted it from the aluminum tube. Holding the tape up to the sky, he saw they were a good, clean set of prints. He placed two more strips of tape over the sticky fingerprint and sealed it tight. He tucked the tape into his wallet. Inspecting the wires running from the antenna to the cottage, he found a cut line. The wire was cut cleanly, probably with a sharp knife. Garrett began to worry about Jane.
Taking the ends of the wire in hand, he pulled out his pocket knife and carefully cut back the plastic casing surrounding the ends. Once clear of the lining, he twisted the wires back together in a kind of braid that he hoped would hold until he could pull a new wire. He decided to go into town and get a new aluminum pole for the antenna, and perhaps take a ride to the sheriff’s office to see about a missing girl and the two men. No doubt, Jack and Bill were not their real names, just as Rose was probably not her real name.
Looking back on what had happened in the last twenty-four-hours, he began to wonder how any of it could be believed. A beautiful girl shows up, wet, afraid, suffering from amnesia, cuddles with him in his bed. Two bad men come to fetch her, and damage his equipment when he’s not looking. It was crazy. But it was real. He had the proof. Perhaps, he’d take that to the sheriff’s office. He looked down at his boat tied to the dock and wondered if they had done anything to the engine.