LIVELY LITERATI

Last night’s lively literati was a lot of fun. First I didn’t trip on the cape I wore. Secondly, I didn’t lose anything and thirdly a person I do not know, after hearing me read a passage of my book, told me it was gripping. That she bought it matters less than the compliment. I was asked how I develop my characters. It’s not as easy a question as one might think. Maddy shares some of my habits. Yes I talk to my teddy bears. I was a lonely child and they always agreed with me. Judson has the wonderful sense of humor my brother had he had when he was a boy. Chief Daniels has the insights of my 7th grade English teacher. His kindness will never be forgotten. Mrs. Daniels has the dedication my sister always shows. The others have qualities, strengths and weakness, from those I’ve met on my many years journey. Marcus is the me I would have liked to be. I wanted to be a man, because there were no female heroes when I grew up. I wanted to be strong, because I saw my weaknesses. When I thought I was going to die, the brain tumor, I wanted to be more selfless but mostly I want to leave the world a better place than the way it was when I entered it.

LIVELY LITERATI

I just found out the East Greenwich Hotel has opened its kitchen, so if you’d like a meal to go along with an interesting presentation, good company and a good glass of wine, you’ll find it all there. Don’t forget it’s tonight at 6:30 in the Updike room of the East Greenwich Hotel, 162 Main Street East Greenwich, RI. If you can make, step over and say hello.

RADIO INTERVIEW

I WILL BE INTERVIEWED ON WADK TOMORROW AT 10:30. I HOPE YOU TUNE IN. DON’T FORGET I’M AT LIVELY LITERATI THIS THURSDAY AT 6:30 AT THE EAST GREENWICH HOTEL 162 MAIN STREET, EAST GREENWICH, RI LET’S GET TOGETHER, I WILL TRY TO SCARE YOU, BUT ONLY A LITTLE BIT.

LIVELY LITERATI

DEBRA ZANNELLI

AUTHOR OF:

In the Darkness and Light series

Dark Night of the Soul

A Darkness Descending 

Where There Was Darkness

Darkness and Light, The Hunter

In the Sci Fi Sister World Trilogy

Sister World I, The Arrival

Sister World 2, The Fight for Earth

Will be speaking at the

THE LIVELY LITERATI

On October 28th 

At the East Greenwich Hotel

162 Main Street

East Greenwich, RI

At 6:30

Costumes are welcome but not required   I hope to see you there.

THE REWARDS

I was at Scituate’s Fair this past Saturday and Woonsocket’s Autumnfest Sunday. Both were great days for me. I really enjoyed the people I met and hope they enjoy the books they bought. What made it extra special was the comment I received about Sister World the Arrival, on facebook, which was also posted as a review on Amazon.

“I just bought the first two of the sister world trilogy on Sunday afternoon. I’m already 30 pages from being done book 1!! Is the third out yet? I’ll need it by Friday at this rate!”

I hope she enjoys The Fight for Earth as much. I am working on the third: Sister World, Back to Terah. I am now highly motivated, though it’s not easy saving a world, even when it doesn’t actually exist. But then who really knows what’s out there.

For someone who waited years to do what she always wanted to do, there is nothing so rewarding as knowing you made someone smile. Let’s continue the journey. It’s a great ride.

UPDATE

I was at the Scituate Fair and Woonsocket’s Autumn festival

I got to meet many new people, and made a lot of book sales. The weather held and the other vendors, food and in Woonsocket, the rides, were a big hit.

I know you do not all live close enough to visit, but if you do, make sure to come to the Lively Literati on October 28th. It’s held at the East Greenwich Hotel, 162 Main Street in East Greenwich, RI. and begins at 6:30. This month I’ll be speaking about my books and reading the scenes I hope will make you shiver. Costumes are welcome but not required. If you’ve read Dark Night of the Soul, you know Gregor is unique and the changes he forced upon Marcus has changed his life in ways even he does not understand. I intend to showcase some of what that means, of course I’ll be a bit dramatic. I hope to see you there.

Chapter 13

The chase was close, the risk had been great, but Marcus could not let the officer die.  Neither could he risk Gregor continuing on to Dr. Abram. He hoped his desire to catch him would give the doctor protection.  Once again he was running.  The water would be colder this time, but it offered the best protection.

The Missouri River, starting from the glaciers and heading for the Mississippi was frigid.  Gregor would not follow, so Marcus dove.  The swift current pulled him far from what Gregor’s sharp eyes could see and Marcus let it take him where it would.  

He could no longer feel his limbs, his breathing was labored and though he didn’t think it would kill him, he was unsure.  His condition did not immune him from pain.

Free of the icy waters, the chill night air did nothing to relieve the pain and Marcus found walking difficult.  He followed the slight scent of blood, hoping it would be close to the warmth he was in desperate need of.

The town was small.  All businesses closed and Marcus looked for an open door.  Any one would do.

The apartment building with its six apartments never locked the entry door and Marcus quickly snuck inside.  Though there was no heat in the hall, it was far warmer than the brisk night air.  Hugging his knees to his chest, he found he could not stop shivering.  It was agony.

“Hey mister…”

She was more interested than scared.  Her dark green eyes narrowed as she tried to get a better look at the man pushing himself further against the wall.  With a perfect complexion, long golden red hair curling on her slender shoulders and wearing no make up, Marcus could not tell her age.  

A Darkness Descending

 “You okay?”

“You should not approach someone you do not know.”  He fought to remain sitting.  “I am not dangerous, but you do not know this.”  He hoped it was true.

A harsh voice spoke out from behind her.  “I would have said the same thing.  What if he was a thief, or worse?  Don’t,” though Marcus could not see, he was sure the man stopped his daughter from arguing.  “Go inside, shut the door.”

When she turned away, Marcus could see she was a young woman.  He looked away.  Once he would have thought her beautiful, now he only thought to keep her far away from what he’d become.  The man stepping forward put himself between Marcus and the door.  He looked very much like his daughter.  His red gold hair was thinning and his green eyes were stormy with anger.  He was slender and in his eyes, Marcus saw hunger.  The clothes hung loosely from a body that had once been larger.

Remembering the many closed businesses and the empty hulk that looked to be a thriving factory, Marcus began to wonder if it wasn’t just the night that closed those doors.  

 Stepping from foot to foot, he stared at Marcus.  There was something in his expression, but Marcus was not sure what it was.  Finally he stopped rocking.  He kept enough distance between them to feel safe.  He did not realize how dangerous his position was. Marcus curled his hands into fists, hiding them behind his back.  Blood began to flow from where he pressed his fingernails into his palms, pain taking his mind off the hunger.

Debra Zannelli

“Do you mind telling me what you’re doing here?”

“No I do not mind.”  He saw the man’s anger grow.  “I can see I did not answer well.  I did not mean to.  I am a traveler.  The bridge was slippery.  I fell into the river.  The door was open.  I could feel the heat.  I thought to warm here.”

His hands relaxed but the expression he wore said he was still weary. “You can stay here, at least for a while.  I’ve got to talk to my wife.”

No reply was expected.  Marcus looked beyond the retreating back to the sun rising behind the closing door.  The man’s expression lingered, a question nagging at the back of his mind.  He stilled his heart and his body grew quiet, tuning into the conversation behind the thin walls of the apartment.

“Why are you letting him stay?”  Her voice was quivering and angry. 

 “Because he’s wanted by the police.”

“That’s…”  Her voice began to rise.

“Quiet.”  It was a hiss.  “You don’t want him to hear us, do you?”

“Of course not.” She whispered.  “Explain.”

“Wait till the gun’s loaded.”

“I’ve always hated your having that thing.  Right now I’m glad.”

“There’s a reward.  Twenty five thousand dollars would go a long way.  Could pay the rent for a few months.  Keep us from being evicted.  So let’s just play nice, keep him here until the police come.”

“I don’t like this, but we do need the money.  Julie,” her voice became a command.”  There was a long pause before her call was answered.  

A Darkness Descending

 “What.  I didn’t get…”

 “Hush.  I want you to take your brother to Ramona’s.  Go out the fire escape.”

“What..”

“For once do what your mother says, and do it right now.”

Marcus could hear angry footsteps, followed by the protesting window.

Once the window closed, the man came back into the hall.

 “My name’s Jeff.”

“I’m Allen.”  Marcus looked away, trying to remember why he’d chosen that name.  There had been a reason, but he could no longer remember it.

“Here’s a blanket.  It’ll help warm you.  If you throw me your clothes, my wife will dry them.”

Marcus hesitated but chose to accept the offer.  The sun was climbing and the warmth was alluring.

“Please,” his grey eyes studied the man.  “I cannot, not when I am not alone, but it would be nice for them to dry.”

Jeff turned around, speaking over his shoulder, the blades protruding from the well-worn shirt.  “I’ll be back in a few.”

Marcus stayed hidden in the blanket, finally throwing the clothes by the door.

Jeff collected the sodden clothes without speaking. 

“If they are not dry before the sun sinks,” Marcus whispered when the door closed, “I will have to get them.”

Once again he balled his hands into fists, hoping he would not have to.

Debra Zannelli

 “It is dangerous for me to be so near, so hungry.  It would be too easy.  I am not a monster.”  He hissed, hearing Gregor’s reply.  “But of course you are.”

Marcus realized he must have been sleeping for the man’s return startled him.  The clothes, dry and warm, were thrown on his lap. 

 “Thank you.” He told the closed door.

The sun was beginning its journey towards the horizon and soon he would be leaving. Having no idea how far he’d come, he could not be sure how much time he had.  Only the descending darkness told him that many hours had passed.

 Marcus heard the police before he could see them.  Jeff, obviously using the fire escape, was greeting them. 

The three officers entering the hall were surprised to see Marcus standing, hands held out before him.

He smiled at their startled expressions.  “I did not kill them.”

Quickly cuffing him, the officer in charge, grinned.  “Tell it to the judge.  We’d been told you were some big bad ass.  Detective Buford made it sound like you took him and two others out.”

“I did.”  Marcus returned the smile.  He turned to Jeffrey.  “Did you get the reward?”

A look of confusion crossed his face and for a moment he could not reply. Finally nodding that he had, he began slowly backing away.  Marcus broke the chains. They dangled from the cuffs, catching the little light of the dirt covered globe lighting the hallway.  

A quick movement and the two younger officers found themselves cuffed together.  They had not seen him reach for them.

A Darkness Descending

Marcus took the outstretched gun, twisting the barrel.  He then returned the useless weapon. 

“I have no intention of hurting you, but I suggest you do not follow.  Thank you,” he turned to Jeffrey, who stood, shaking in the doorway of his home, protecting the woman trying to hide behind him.  “Your children can return now.”

He was gone.

“Get these stupid things off.”

“No.”  He was already running.  “I’m gonna at least see which direction he went. 

Returning, breath steaming in the chill air walking with him, he turned to the others.  “He’s gone.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone move that fast.”

“I think I owe Buford an apology.”  The youngest officer looked away, a slight blush creeping up his cheeks.  “I did a little too much teasing.”

“Apologize later.”  The voice was impatient.  “I’m getting the god damned key.  Have you out in a minute.  He threw it over there.  By the way, if you knew Buford as well as I do, you’d know you are very much going to pay for that.  He’s mean and has a long memory.”

 “You guys okay? Want some coffee or anything.  Molly’s making coffee.”  He peeked out from behind the door.

“Besides my pride, the only thing wounded is my gun.”  He held up the useless weapon.  “A guy that fast and strong enough to do this, could have killed us all.  Keep the chit.  You earned the reward.  It’s not your fault he got away.  I’ll make sure my report says that we lost him.”

Debra Zannelli

Marcus, standing, warm and dry behind the apartment, smiled.  He’d heard enough.  “It was worth the wait.  I helped,” he spoke to Gregor.  “You will never understand this.  Another doll in my collection, though why I see them as dolls having tea, I can no longer remember.” 

“Once, as with so many things, it meant something. I must find her before I forget.”  He stopped for a moment, forcing himself to remember.  “We were farmers in Maine, my family,” he frowned.  “My name is Marcus.  How many in my family I cannot recall.  I was fifteen.  He killed my father, took me. I rescued Jason, Newbie. I think there was a farm, maybe.  I was saved by Dr. Abram.  There was a boy and a tree, though I do not know what they have to do with each other.  When I would not take the girl I killed myself and he made me a monster. I escaped rescuing a young girl on a swing, the girl I was to kill.  Gregor, I do not feel you.  I think I will stay close to the river.  Norwich, Connecticut is where I must go.  I will repeat this to keep it alive within me, I cannot let myself remember only what you have done.”

Growing quiet, he turned to the river following its southward path.  Soon he would turn east, letting the stars direct him as it had once directed all those navigating the uncharted oceans.

Gregor, where are you?”  Marcus sat unmoving, letting his feelings search in the night.  “It has been so long.  Am I truly free?”

Marcus no longer spoke, the words just floated in his mind, even his frequently repeated list of things not to forget were no longer spoken. 

A Darkness Descending

 “I wonder if I can?”  He did not try to answer, afraid of what he might learn.  “If you are killing, I have not heard.  I cannot find you.  Do you know I am still here?  I hope there is no other.”  He looked out to the lake, unable to name it.  “I am almost there.”  Shaking his head, he felt the overlong hair sticking to his shirt.  There was food coming.  He could smell the blood pounding in its veins.  

The dog came charging into the clearing, followed closely by a young boy.

 “Charger, get over here.  It’s dark, we gotta get home.  Come on.”

The dog stopped, a snarling growl escaping as it stared at the man sitting cross-legged on the sand.

Head lowered, Marcus looked to see the boy standing beside the dog, fear frozen on his young face.

Hunger, the animal could smell his hunger and began backing away, it’s growl growing louder.

“Fight it,” Marcus silently told himself.  “It is a dog.  You cannot kill it.”  He turned away.  His voice, barely audible, crawled from him.  “Go.”

Once again alone, Marcus knew he would only grow more dangerous, if he did not feed.  He didn’t remember the path he needed to take.  It was quiet.  He could smell only the boy and the dog and knew he could not follow. 

Turning from the path they’d taken, he once again began to walk.  There was no safe place.  He began telling himself the things he did not want to forget.  

Morning was coming.  It was then he saw the farm.  The rooster strutting around the hens looked promising.

Debra Zannelli

Full, Marcus made his way to the back of the barn.  The rusted tools, hay many months undisturbed told him he could spend his day here. Quietly he removed the knife from its sheath, hacking at his hair.

“Damn coyotes.  Got my chickens.”  Dust swirled around his feet as he kicked the dirt.  “Gonna get my gun.”

Marcus sat up.  “He must have found the dead chickens.” He shook his head, wiping the sleep from his eyes. “Before I would have felt bad for the coyotes.  They did not do the killing.  I think I liked all living things.” 

 “Once there had been a,” the thought floated away and he could not capture the memory.

Listening to the footsteps growing louder, Marcus prepared for the confrontation.  He could not leave.  His options were few.  Still he did not want to hurt him. 

From behind a large piece of rust that must once have been a useful tool, one maybe Marcus, who thought he was once a farmer, should have recognized, he watched him approach.  

The footsteps stilled.  Marcus breathed slowly, repeating in his mind, ‘turn away.’

“Anyone here?  Damn, I didn’t leave the door open.  Show yourself.”

“You do not want this.”  He felt the edginess of his voice, heard the man’s abrupt stop.  “I am asking you to please let me rest here.”

Footsteps retreating, now running and Marcus wondered if he would be left alone, or would he have to defend a life he wanted only to end. 

A Darkness Descending

 He waited.  No one returned to the barn, there were no sirens.  The sunlight leaking through the gaps in the ageing walls showed him that soon he could leave.  “I would pay you for the chickens, but I no longer have the money.”

Leaving the barn, he did not know if his departure was observed.  He moved swiftly, but allowed himself to feel the air around him.  “Not yet,” he told the night.  “Gregor, you are nearer than I thought.”

The city’s sprawl began long before he could see its heart.  Still beating, it had seen hard times.  There were many beautiful buildings restored to former glory.  Many that would take little effort to destroy.  The center, at night was deserted.  He could smell blood, the women selling the only thing they had to sell. 

Turning, he saw the place Gregor would be.  He did not know it’s name, but in his years of travel he had seen many.  They were all the same.  Misery cloaked by compassion, sadness helping pain.  A feeling of shared misery seemed to spread around the building, a palpable scent.   He followed. 

There were plenty of places for a predator to hide and Gregor was not the only one here.  

He saw her.

“Mason.”  Fear jumped from her voice.  The long skirt of her dress began to sway, loudly crackling in the silence.  “How did you …?”

“Find you.”  There was menace in the voice.  “Pretty easily actually.  Had to pay…”

Marcus stepped forward but before he could speak, another stepped from the shadows.

Debra Zannelli

 “Me,” it grinned.  “He paid me.  Take your prize.  We,” he nodded to Marcus, “have unfinished business.”

“You should both go to the shelter.”  Marcus turned to the man.  “Do you really think you are meant to walk away from here?”  He stepped between them, knowing he could not win, but unwilling to watch them die.

“Still saving lives.”  The laugh was a sneer.  

The woman began to run.  Marcus could hear the leaves crackling under her feet.  Gregor laughed.  “You are not fast enough.”

“I am.”

Pushing forward, the speed of his movements caused the trees to sway.  With an angry cry, Gregor turned to the man, who found himself unable to move.  The look, the hunger in those black eyes broke the trance and he rushed forward, heading to the shelter.

 “You won’t be welcome there, little monster.”  Gregor laughed.  He looked back at Marcus who was now standing between him and the shelter. 

“I did not want them.”

“I know.”

 “But still you came?”

 “I told you many times that you would not understand.”  He grinned, jaw hurting with the unusual movement.  “I have a few more dolls.”

With a sudden turn, a movement too fast to avoid, Marcus once again found himself prisoner.  Closing his eyes, not knowing why, he thought of string beans.

Knowing his best chance of regaining his freedom was to appear weak.  Marcus fought with little effort, grunting as if in pain.

A Darkness Descending

 Ignoring the pain of Gregor’s nails as they sliced down the front of his chest, he fell limply against him, hiding this anger.  He felt the blood vessels burst and knew his blood red eyes would tell Gregor more than he wanted him to know.

Night was passing quickly.  As dead weight, he felt Gregor’s anger when he was pulled from the yard. Beyond the woods surrounding the shelter, the car sat.  It was running.  

A man jumped from the vehicle, opening the back door and Marcus was pushed inside.  

In a voice filled with satisfaction, Gregor bragged.  “I’ve been following you.  You have not heard of my feedings.  I have been careful. It did not take long for me to find this place. I knew I could make you feel me, my presence.  I know your weakness.”

The car was moving fast but Marcus did not care.  The sun was rising.  The morning had come. 

“You have forgotten my strength.”  His voice was an ugly sneer.  He kicked the door, feeling the lock break.  As the door swung open, he jumped, hearing Gregor’s scream follow.

A DARKNESS DESCENDING

CHAPTER 12

The day was quiet.  The town sleeping between seasons.  As usual, this far north, the temperature had fallen.  Stepping out into the cloudless night, Marcus saw many people looking his way.  With no coat, shivering, moonlight highlighting his pale face; the police, if they came this way, would have no difficulty knowing he’d been here.  Still he walked, drawn to the shelter by unbreakable threads.

The modern building was larger than Marcus had hoped it would need to be.  Glass doors looked out upon the street.  The vestibule was bright and Marcus could not enter.  Behind the desk facing the doors, the young woman watched him walking back and forth.  He looked in, shading his eyes.  When he saw her, he quickly turned away.

“Dr. Abram.”  Though she spoke quietly, Marcus heard her.  “There’s a man pacing in front of the door.”

Marcus looked at the large brass letters labeling the building.  T.O.I.C.S., smaller print sitting below, explained the meaning of the name, but he could not read the words.

A man in oversized glasses walked to the receptionist.  Even slightly bent, age pulling him to the center of the earth, he towered over her. A hand, mottled with age spots reached up to scratch the silver grey hair circling a high forehead. Through the glass Marcus could see the electric blue eyes that time had not changed.  All four watched the door, waiting for the stranger to once again pass by.

“I thought.”  She began, only to be interrupted.

“You thought my instructions to have you call me if ever a young man standing before our doors was a bit strange?”

She looked away.  “You said he wouldn’t enter.  How did you know?”

Dr. Abram smiled.  “I didn’t know.” 

Marcus passed and Dr. Abram pulled his sweater close around him. 

“Harriet don’t come out into the dark.  I don’t think I’ll need you.  If I do”—he whispered—“it will be too late.  If anything happens to me call the police and stay where it’s brightest.”  He looked at the overly bright lights carefully placed around them.  They filled each room, every night.  The residents had learned to sleep bathed in their glow.

 “Dr.”—she grabbed his arm—“don’t go.  I’m scared.”

 “You probably should be.  There are many things to fear, but I don’t think I need to fear him.”  

The door opened and Marcus turned quickly around.  He remembered those eyes, their kindness and he smiled.

“It is you?”  Dr. Abram stepped out, eyes closing as the door locked behind him.

“Yes Doctor.”

“It’s been a long time.  I tried to save you.  I went to the police, we went back as quickly as we could.”

“We left as soon as it returned.” Marcus looked away.  “I thought you must gotten away, why else would it be so angry, but I could not be sure it was angry with me, for sending you away.”

Dr. Abram closed his eyes picturing the room he’d returned to.  The blood stained mattress, rodent bones collected in the corners.  “It’s cold.  You must be freezing.  Come inside where we can talk.”  He backed away from the pain in Marcus’ eyes.  “You can’t.”

Marcus, turning away from the lights, surprised to see the Dr. still standing beside him. 

“You do not run?”

 “I believe I have nothing to run from.”

“I am glad you are still here.”

“How can it be you?  You should be older.”

“You can ask, but I cannot tell you.  I don’t understand it either.  This is a shelter?”

 “Yes. I opened it as a safe haven for abused children, boys or girls.”

“That is good.  Are there many?”

“Always too many.  You’re welcome here, you always will be.”

“You have given me a warmth I have not felt in a very long time.”  Marcus wrapped his arms across his chest.  “The pain pills, I have always wanted to thank you for them.  I kept them. I used them slowly.  He never understood how I was able to ignore the pain.  It was a small victory.”

“The ribs, arm?”  The doctor searched for signs of previous injuries.  “You healed well, even the thumbs.”

“You did a good job.”  Marcus looked at his hands, the thumbs only slightly misshapen.

“You came back to see me?”

 “Yes, for a while now I have been revisiting, I guess that is what you would say, those that helped me.  I think in my own way I am saying goodbye.  I want you, someone to know I survived, that I am not what he tried to make me.  I thought you might understand, would believe me.  I”—he turned away once again searching among the stars—“have been hiding, fighting him all these years.  The police think I killed four women in a place called Carson City.  I was hiding there.  A woman found me, tried to help. She did not understand the danger.  His voice broke.  “I thought he was further away, but he found me.  He killed her and the others, but I am blamed.  Please do not believe them.”  He stared into the doctor’s eyes, “I have never killed. I only wish for one person to think kindly of me.  Perhaps to mourn.”

Tears were in the doctor’s eyes.  “I will mourn.  I believe you.  I saw your suffering.  I saw the boy doing his best to save someone he didn’t know, had no reason to save.”  He pointed to the sign.  “Do you see what I named the shelter?”

“I see the letters.  The words, I cannot read them.”

“T.O.I.C.S.  It stands for The One I Couldn’t Save.  It is named for you.  I wanted so badly to save you.”

“But you did.  I had given up; thought there was only cruelty.  No reason for me to go on, to not embrace the darkness he wanted for me.  But you, your eyes were kind.  I could see that you cared, though you did not know me, and I knew there was a reason to continue, a reason to resist.  I have saved some lives.  I hide, but then I let him find me, so that he will know I am still here.”

“Why?”  The doctor shivered.

“It is cold.  You should go back inside.”

 “I’m fine. Please continue.”

“He spoke very often of taking another boy prisoner, another one to torture.  He wants to join the Gods he believes in.  To prove himself worthy, he has to show them he was not weak.  Not weaker than anyone would be, even those far older than he had been when his father beat him.  He takes those he feels are strong and keeps them until they beg or cry.”

“But you?”

“I have never begged, never cried.  I do not think it is possible for me to cry now.  So I continue.  I show him that I have not died so that he will chase me and not take another.  But I am so tired.”

The doctor reached out, one arm placed firmly around Marcus’ shoulder.  Frowning, Marcus looked at the hand. “I do not usually let anyone touch me.”

 “I’m your doctor.”  The comment was rewarded with a tentative smile. “How did you escape?”

“I guess you can say I escaped, but in a way I am still a prisoner.”  Marcus pulled down the collar of his shirt.  “I had had enough.  He was going to use me as a reason to kill.  I couldn’t let him do this.  It was then he made me into what I am.  I let him think”—Marcus turned away—“that I loved him for this.  He was to teach me how to kill; I saved the girl and escaped.  I was stronger than he knew.”

“I am sorry for what you must have had to do.”

“That was when I died.” He paused, looking into distant memories.  “There were boys, I helped them escape.  But I do not know if they lived.  I would ask, though you may not know.”

“Ask anything.”

“Years ago, I do not know how many, there was a place boys were used as slaves, young girls sold to old men.  I, Jason, we fought back.  I captured the Master of the camp.  The boys and girls, I told them to run.  We did not know each other’s names.  I have often wondered about them.”

“Why didn’t you go with them?”

“Gregor, that is his name, would have come for me.  If it found me with them, it would kill them all and once again, as with you, nothing would change for me.  I fought their Master to rescue them, not bring about their deaths.”

“Let me think.”  Dr. Abram searched his memories, using key words much like real keys, unlocking the place where the story he’d read many years ago was stored. 

“The farm was in Alabama.  Boys and girls in various stages of illnesses, addictions, and abuse had gone to the police, who then raided the camp.  The guards died, burned inside their barracks.  No one cared to investigate the fire. I think the name of the boy that led them was Jason, but I cannot be certain. Most of them were reunited with their families.  Others were given new homes.  I don’t know how well they fared.  You set them free?”

“It was my plan, but we did it together. The younger boys set fire to the barracks.  They must be forgiven. The guards were cruel.  The Master…”  His voice faded.  “I offered myself to him in place of a weaker boy.  Master was another of the monsters I have seen.  I was too strong for him.  The food in the camp was good and once I was a farm boy.  I left him to Gregor.  He was well punished.”

“Why were you there?”

Once again Marcus looked away.  “Gregor did not like a sickly toy and I had stopped eating. Please,” he hurried on, seeing the doctor’s distress.  “This is a good memory.  I must say farewell to you now. I cannot stay here.  He will be looking and I do not want him to find you.”  He grew quiet, letting his feelings search the night.  “He is not close.  I will leave tonight.  I’ll let him find me far from here, so you’ll be safe. But stay, as I see you do, in the light.”

“I have not slept in a dark room since I ran from that cabin, felt him closing in on me, turning away only when I got to the police station and its bright lights.  But wait,” he reached into the pocket of the long grey sweater he wore.  “Take this.  It’s a business card.  I know you can’t read it, but if you ever need me, need to get here, it’ll tell you where I am.”

Marcus took the offered cards, frowning.

“I gave you a few.” The doctor smiled. “Just in case you lose one. Please”—he bent closer looking into grey eyes now the color of the sea with the morning mist rising from it—“don’t lose the cards.”

Marcus remained quiet, carefully placing them deep into the pocket of the dark jeans he wore.

“Where will you go, how will you travel?”

“I have one last goodbye, the first I was to kill.  I do not know the name, but I remember the way.  I travel at night.  I walk. It is not hard.  I walk fast.”

Marcus reached for the satchel tied to his back. “This is for your shelter.  I do not know how much there is.  It was Lenore’s.  I did not steal it.  She gave it to me, but as you can see it does me no good.  It would be much better used to improve the lives of those living here.” 

The satchel changed hands; the doctor not looking inside. 

“There is just one more thing you can do. Please help the man who plays the violin at the bar, Joseph Parri.  He gave me shelter.  I believe with your help he could stop drinking, be a good man again.”

 “No matter what has happened to you, how he changed you, you are a good man.  Marcus.”  He spoke quickly before Marcus could turn away.  “I want you to remember me.”

“I am forgetting Doctor.  I can no longer remember my father, my mother or sister’s faces, names.  I can tell you how my father would have wanted me to act.  I have done my best.”  He looked at the night sky, as if hoping for confirmation.  “I am beginning to forget even those that came after he took me.  That is one of the reasons I’m saying goodbye.  I fear I will forget it all.”

“I can explain why that is happening to you.”  The doctor chewed on his lower lip.  “It’s called psychogenic amnesia.”  He saw Marcus looking around, not knowing that he was trying to feel if Gregor was close.  “You don’t need to know that.  What it means is that people who suffer mental distress, like car accidents, certain diseases and in your case extreme abuse, suffer a loss of self.  You don’t lose your memories, not at first but over time all the memories associated with the person you were, begin to fade.”

“It is good it is slow. Will they return?”

“I cannot say, at least not in your case.”  Abram frowned. “Do you know what you are?”

“I know only that which I can and cannot do.”

“If you find out, if you need help, of any kind no matter what—he chuckled, a bitter sound—“no matter how old you’re not, no matter where this road takes you, contact me.  I’ll always answer.”

“I will try to remember.” 

Far from the state with a face was his journey’s end. Marcus wanted to begin, to turn east, but it was time to look into Gregor’s eyes, to let him know he had not yet won.  He turned back to Carson City, but he did not think he would have to go that far.

Officer Andrea Perkins felt the hairs on her arms stand at attention.  The air around her was suddenly chilly, and the night seemed far too dangerous.  She stood, hesitant to leave the brightly lit doorway.

There was an unnatural darkness to the night. A black shadow not far from where she stood.  She could not tell who or what was hidden there.

She heard a footstep from behind and quickly turned, hand reaching for her weapon.  

“There is no need.”

She turned to Marcus, who stood just beyond the reach of the light.  “They found the girls alive?”

“Yes.  They…”

“What is this?”  Gregor growled, stepping from the shadows that hid him.

“You would not understand.”  Marcus looked away, dismissing him.

“Do you count them?”  Gregor snarled.

Marcus ignored him, keeping his eyes on the policewoman.  She took a step forward.

“Don’t.”  She obeyed Marcus’ command.

 “It has been a long time.”

It was not addressing her, and Andrea felt like she was witnessing something few would see.

“Not long enough, I think.  I thought you should know that I am still here.”

“Aren’t you tired of this game?”  Gregor glanced at Marcus, beginning to grin.

“It is a game I am winning.”

“No.” The reply was a screech.  “I have killed many.  Those four in the city were for you.  You lost your friend.  You know I don’t like you to have them.  What was her name?”

 “Lenore, yes she was a friend.”

 “She didn’t tell me where she lived, even when I beat her.  I knew you would find her.  Did it hurt?”

He laughed cruelly and Officer Perkins shivered.

Marcus ignored the question.

“I had no doubt the sheep would think you killed her.  They would make things easier for me.  I didn’t expect you to get free of them.  You, who refuse to kill, how did you escape?”

“I did not need to, have never needed to kill.  You killed her to get me, but I’m still free.”  He pointed to the police station. “You cannot enter their bright lights.”  Marcus was sure the officer would understand the warning. “I have no intention of fighting you here.  You are too weak in the light.”

A cruel laugh accompanied his words, and Marcus turned his back to Gregor.  “Follow me if you can.”

He disappeared, quickly followed by the blackness that had been waiting.  Officer Perkins heard the words, whispered in the wind.

“You are lucky he came back.”

She went into the station.  The report she filed, told of the overheard conversation, exonerating the man wanted for the Carson City murders.  It would be found much later, and its words would save a hard won life.

Chapter 12

T

he day was quiet.  The town sleeping between seasons.  As usual, this far north, the temperature had fallen.  Stepping out into the cloudless night, Marcus saw many people looking his way.  With no coat, shivering, moonlight highlighting his pale face; the police, if they came this way, would have no difficulty knowing he’d been here.  Still he walked, drawn to the shelter by unbreakable threads.

The modern building was larger than Marcus had hoped it would need to be.  Glass doors looked out upon the street.  The vestibule was bright and Marcus could not enter.  Behind the desk facing the doors, the young woman watched him walking back and forth.  He looked in, shading his eyes.  When he saw her, he quickly turned away.

“Dr. Abram.”  Though she spoke quietly, Marcus heard her.  “There’s a man pacing in front of the door.”

Marcus looked at the large brass letters labeling the building.  T.O.I.C.S., smaller print sitting below, explained the meaning of the name, but he could not read the words.

A man in oversized glasses walked to the receptionist.  Even slightly bent, age pulling him to the center of the earth, he towered over her. A hand, mottled with age spots reached up to scratch the silver grey hair circling a high forehead. Through the glass Marcus could see the electric blue eyes that time had not changed.  All four watched the door, waiting for the stranger to once again pass by.

“I thought.”  She began, only to be interrupted.

“You thought my instructions to have you call me if ever a young man standing before our doors was a bit strange?”

She looked away.  “You said he wouldn’t enter.  How did you know?”

Dr. Abram smiled.  “I didn’t know.” 

Marcus passed and Dr. Abram pulled his sweater close around him. 

“Harriet don’t come out into the dark.  I don’t think I’ll need you.  If I do”—he whispered—“it will be too late.  If anything happens to me call the police and stay where it’s brightest.”  He looked at the overly bright lights carefully placed around them.  They filled each room, every night.  The residents had learned to sleep bathed in their glow.

 “Dr.”—she grabbed his arm—“don’t go.  I’m scared.”

 “You probably should be.  There are many things to fear, but I don’t think I need to fear him.”  

The door opened and Marcus turned quickly around.  He remembered those eyes, their kindness and he smiled.

“It is you?”  Dr. Abram stepped out, eyes closing as the door locked behind him.

“Yes Doctor.”

“It’s been a long time.  I tried to save you.  I went to the police, we went back as quickly as we could.”

“We left as soon as it returned.” Marcus looked away.  “I thought you must gotten away, why else would it be so angry, but I could not be sure it was angry with me, for sending you away.”

Dr. Abram closed his eyes picturing the room he’d returned to.  The blood stained mattress, rodent bones collected in the corners.  “It’s cold.  You must be freezing.  Come inside where we can talk.”  He backed away from the pain in Marcus’ eyes.  “You can’t.”

Marcus, turning away from the lights, surprised to see the Dr. still standing beside him. 

“You do not run?”

 “I believe I have nothing to run from.”

“I am glad you are still here.”

“How can it be you?  You should be older.”

“You can ask, but I cannot tell you.  I don’t understand it either.  This is a shelter?”

 “Yes. I opened it as a safe haven for abused children, boys or girls.”

“That is good.  Are there many?”

“Always too many.  You’re welcome here, you always will be.”

“You have given me a warmth I have not felt in a very long time.”  Marcus wrapped his arms across his chest.  “The pain pills, I have always wanted to thank you for them.  I kept them. I used them slowly.  He never understood how I was able to ignore the pain.  It was a small victory.”

“The ribs, arm?”  The doctor searched for signs of previous injuries.  “You healed well, even the thumbs.”

“You did a good job.”  Marcus looked at his hands, the thumbs only slightly misshapen.

“You came back to see me?”

 “Yes, for a while now I have been revisiting, I guess that is what you would say, those that helped me.  I think in my own way I am saying goodbye.  I want you, someone to know I survived, that I am not what he tried to make me.  I thought you might understand, would believe me.  I”—he turned away once again searching among the stars—“have been hiding, fighting him all these years.  The police think I killed four women in a place called Carson City.  I was hiding there.  A woman found me, tried to help. She did not understand the danger.  His voice broke.  “I thought he was further away, but he found me.  He killed her and the others, but I am blamed.  Please do not believe them.”  He stared into the doctor’s eyes, “I have never killed. I only wish for one person to think kindly of me.  Perhaps to mourn.”

Tears were in the doctor’s eyes.  “I will mourn.  I believe you.  I saw your suffering.  I saw the boy doing his best to save someone he didn’t know, had no reason to save.”  He pointed to the sign.  “Do you see what I named the shelter?”

“I see the letters.  The words, I cannot read them.”

“T.O.I.C.S.  It stands for The One I Couldn’t Save.  It is named for you.  I wanted so badly to save you.”

“But you did.  I had given up; thought there was only cruelty.  No reason for me to go on, to not embrace the darkness he wanted for me.  But you, your eyes were kind.  I could see that you cared, though you did not know me, and I knew there was a reason to continue, a reason to resist.  I have saved some lives.  I hide, but then I let him find me, so that he will know I am still here.”

“Why?”  The doctor shivered.

“It is cold.  You should go back inside.”

 “I’m fine. Please continue.”

“He spoke very often of taking another boy prisoner, another one to torture.  He wants to join the Gods he believes in.  To prove himself worthy, he has to show them he was not weak.  Not weaker than anyone would be, even those far older than he had been when his father beat him.  He takes those he feels are strong and keeps them until they beg or cry.”

“But you?”

“I have never begged, never cried.  I do not think it is possible for me to cry now.  So I continue.  I show him that I have not died so that he will chase me and not take another.  But I am so tired.”

The doctor reached out, one arm placed firmly around Marcus’ shoulder.  Frowning, Marcus looked at the hand. “I do not usually let anyone touch me.”

 “I’m your doctor.”  The comment was rewarded with a tentative smile. “How did you escape?”

“I guess you can say I escaped, but in a way I am still a prisoner.”  Marcus pulled down the collar of his shirt.  “I had had enough.  He was going to use me as a reason to kill.  I couldn’t let him do this.  It was then he made me into what I am.  I let him think”—Marcus turned away—“that I loved him for this.  He was to teach me how to kill; I saved the girl and escaped.  I was stronger than he knew.”

“I am sorry for what you must have had to do.”

“That was when I died.” He paused, looking into distant memories.  “There were boys, I helped them escape.  But I do not know if they lived.  I would ask, though you may not know.”

“Ask anything.”

“Years ago, I do not know how many, there was a place boys were used as slaves, young girls sold to old men.  I, Jason, we fought back.  I captured the Master of the camp.  The boys and girls, I told them to run.  We did not know each other’s names.  I have often wondered about them.”

“Why didn’t you go with them?”

“Gregor, that is his name, would have come for me.  If it found me with them, it would kill them all and once again, as with you, nothing would change for me.  I fought their Master to rescue them, not bring about their deaths.”

“Let me think.”  Dr. Abram searched his memories, using key words much like real keys, unlocking the place where the story he’d read many years ago was stored. 

“The farm was in Alabama.  Boys and girls in various stages of illnesses, addictions, and abuse had gone to the police, who then raided the camp.  The guards died, burned inside their barracks.  No one cared to investigate the fire. I think the name of the boy that led them was Jason, but I cannot be certain. Most of them were reunited with their families.  Others were given new homes.  I don’t know how well they fared.  You set them free?”

“It was my plan, but we did it together. The younger boys set fire to the barracks.  They must be forgiven. The guards were cruel.  The Master…”  His voice faded.  “I offered myself to him in place of a weaker boy.  Master was another of the monsters I have seen.  I was too strong for him.  The food in the camp was good and once I was a farm boy.  I left him to Gregor.  He was well punished.”

“Why were you there?”

Once again Marcus looked away.  “Gregor did not like a sickly toy and I had stopped eating. Please,” he hurried on, seeing the doctor’s distress.  “This is a good memory.  I must say farewell to you now. I cannot stay here.  He will be looking and I do not want him to find you.”  He grew quiet, letting his feelings search the night.  “He is not close.  I will leave tonight.  I’ll let him find me far from here, so you’ll be safe. But stay, as I see you do, in the light.”

“I have not slept in a dark room since I ran from that cabin, felt him closing in on me, turning away only when I got to the police station and its bright lights.  But wait,” he reached into the pocket of the long grey sweater he wore.  “Take this.  It’s a business card.  I know you can’t read it, but if you ever need me, need to get here, it’ll tell you where I am.”

Marcus took the offered cards, frowning.

“I gave you a few.” The doctor smiled. “Just in case you lose one. Please”—he bent closer looking into grey eyes now the color of the sea with the morning mist rising from it—“don’t lose the cards.”

Marcus remained quiet, carefully placing them deep into the pocket of the dark jeans he wore.

“Where will you go, how will you travel?”

“I have one last goodbye, the first I was to kill.  I do not know the name, but I remember the way.  I travel at night.  I walk. It is not hard.  I walk fast.”

Marcus reached for the satchel tied to his back. “This is for your shelter.  I do not know how much there is.  It was Lenore’s.  I did not steal it.  She gave it to me, but as you can see it does me no good.  It would be much better used to improve the lives of those living here.” 

The satchel changed hands; the doctor not looking inside. 

“There is just one more thing you can do. Please help the man who plays the violin at the bar, Joseph Parri.  He gave me shelter.  I believe with your help he could stop drinking, be a good man again.”

 “No matter what has happened to you, how he changed you, you are a good man.  Marcus.”  He spoke quickly before Marcus could turn away.  “I want you to remember me.”

“I am forgetting Doctor.  I can no longer remember my father, my mother or sister’s faces, names.  I can tell you how my father would have wanted me to act.  I have done my best.”  He looked at the night sky, as if hoping for confirmation.  “I am beginning to forget even those that came after he took me.  That is one of the reasons I’m saying goodbye.  I fear I will forget it all.”

“I can explain why that is happening to you.”  The doctor chewed on his lower lip.  “It’s called psychogenic amnesia.”  He saw Marcus looking around, not knowing that he was trying to feel if Gregor was close.  “You don’t need to know that.  What it means is that people who suffer mental distress, like car accidents, certain diseases and in your case extreme abuse, suffer a loss of self.  You don’t lose your memories, not at first but over time all the memories associated with the person you were, begin to fade.”

“It is good it is slow. Will they return?”

“I cannot say, at least not in your case.”  Abram frowned. “Do you know what you are?”

“I know only that which I can and cannot do.”

“If you find out, if you need help, of any kind no matter what—he chuckled, a bitter sound—“no matter how old you’re not, no matter where this road takes you, contact me.  I’ll always answer.”

“I will try to remember.” 

Far from the state with a face was his journey’s end. Marcus wanted to begin, to turn east, but it was time to look into Gregor’s eyes, to let him know he had not yet won.  He turned back to Carson City, but he did not think he would have to go that far.

Officer Andrea Perkins felt the hairs on her arms stand at attention.  The air around her was suddenly chilly, and the night seemed far too dangerous.  She stood, hesitant to leave the brightly lit doorway.

There was an unnatural darkness to the night. A black shadow not far from where she stood.  She could not tell who or what was hidden there.

She heard a footstep from behind and quickly turned, hand reaching for her weapon.  

“There is no need.”

She turned to Marcus, who stood just beyond the reach of the light.  “They found the girls alive?”

“Yes.  They…”

“What is this?”  Gregor growled, stepping from the shadows that hid him.

“You would not understand.”  Marcus looked away, dismissing him.

“Do you count them?”  Gregor snarled.

Marcus ignored him, keeping his eyes on the policewoman.  She took a step forward.

“Don’t.”  She obeyed Marcus’ command.

 “It has been a long time.”

It was not addressing her, and Andrea felt like she was witnessing something few would see.

“Not long enough, I think.  I thought you should know that I am still here.”

“Aren’t you tired of this game?”  Gregor glanced at Marcus, beginning to grin.

“It is a game I am winning.”

“No.” The reply was a screech.  “I have killed many.  Those four in the city were for you.  You lost your friend.  You know I don’t like you to have them.  What was her name?”

 “Lenore, yes she was a friend.”

 “She didn’t tell me where she lived, even when I beat her.  I knew you would find her.  Did it hurt?”

He laughed cruelly and Officer Perkins shivered.

Marcus ignored the question.

“I had no doubt the sheep would think you killed her.  They would make things easier for me.  I didn’t expect you to get free of them.  You, who refuse to kill, how did you escape?”

“I did not need to, have never needed to kill.  You killed her to get me, but I’m still free.”  He pointed to the police station. “You cannot enter their bright lights.”  Marcus was sure the officer would understand the warning. “I have no intention of fighting you here.  You are too weak in the light.”

A cruel laugh accompanied his words, and Marcus turned his back to Gregor.  “Follow me if you can.”

He disappeared, quickly followed by the blackness that had been waiting.  Officer Perkins heard the words, whispered in the wind.

“You are lucky he came back.”

She went into the station.  The report she filed, told of the overheard conversation, exonerating the man wanted for the Carson City murders.  It would be found much later, and its words would save a hard won life.

RECAP

For those of you just beginning to visit my website here’s a blurb for each book in the Darkness and Light Series

First Book written in the Darkness and Light Series

DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL

Dark Night of the soul begins with Marcus returning to the place where he won his freedom. Saving the little girl that was to be his first victim, Marcus was able to escape. With the passing of many years, Marcus’ life has come full circle when he is reunited with the little girl, now a woman. Recognizing Marcus for what he is, not what Gregor tried to make him, Maddy walks by his side and a final battle begins. Not just a battle to save those Gregor is planning to kill, but a battle to bring Marcus out of the dark, freeing his soul from its long dark night.

A DARKNESS DESCENDING

(The Prequel to Dark Night of the Soul)

Marcus’ nightmare begins when he is taken prisoner. The memories of the life he led before being taken, gives Marcus the strength to survive his long imprisonment. As time passes, the tormented becomes the tormentor and Marcus finds within himself a strength he did not know. Saving the little girl who was to be his first victim, Marcus is finally free. Continuing to use his memories even as they are slowly being stolen from him, Marcus becomes both hunter and prey, keeping Gregor from taking another. Knowing his years may be endless, but his memories will not, he begins looking for those he’d met throughout his long journey for a final goodbye. Finding help and compassion where he least expects it, Marcus returns to where his fight for freedom was won.

WHERE THERE WAS DARKNESS

Waking from what he believed would be his fiery death, Marcus finds he is no longer what he was. What he doesn’t know is what he has become. Struggling to answer the questions surrounding him, he finds he is not alone. The one who changed him lingers, haunting and tormenting him. Chief Daniels, the man whose understanding helped Marcus step out of the darkness , stands beside him, introducing Marcus to the world he could be a part of, a world Marcus longs to join. To be a part of that world, Marcus must first accept who he is and what he has become.

DARKNESS AND LIGHT, THE HUNTER

Finally accepting his altered state, Marcus uses the part of him still walking in the shadows. To hunt the human monsters he faces, Marcus must hide who he is and with each success comes the fear he has not hidden enough. Always watching, living off the life of the man he stole, Gregor waits and Marcus wonders if the monster is a part of himself, one he cannot destroy. Marcus hopes each solved case, each life saved will bring him the peace Gregor stole the day he stole the boy Marcus had once been. Stepping into danger, Marcus knows doing what only he can, being who he really is, keeps him a man apart, putting his family, his dreams for peace, and his life at risk.

DARKNESS AND LIGHT, VAMPIRES (coming soon)

Searching for the ever-elusive redemption, Marcus finds in this quest he is not alone. Gregor’s long journey and both their ultimate fates, depend on the strengths and weaknesses of each other. The dead he could not save haunt Marcus more than the shade walking in the half-world beside him. Marcus’ abilities take him to places he never thought to see, paths he never thought to walk, and bringing him into a world threatening to take from him all those he’s grown to love. Marcus is still the man fighting to escape the the flames he had once hoped to die in.

DARKNESS AND LIGHT COVER

I love the cover and must thank Norma Gustafson once again for the great photograph, which works very well for my Marcus, my main character, rising from the flames that has been the life he’s lived. The proof is on the way and full publishing is yet to come. Once it’s proofed, it’ll be available in all formats.