CHANGES to DRAWINGS for FREE, SIGNED COPIES of MYSTERY novels; 4-Year Anniversary Celebration Continues!

WE’RE CHANGING IT UP TO HELP CELEBRATE the 4-year Anniversary of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction group, autographed copies of selected Gay & Lesbian mystery novels will be offered up to our devoted members who each will have a chance to win via drawing! Twenty authors and Matthew Moore’s, Buy More Books, contributed over 50 books to give away FREE!!

word murder written with an old typewriter

How Do I Enter to Win?

Easy – just watch for a notice posted in the group to enter and win a SIGNED Copy of one of the titles being offered in the drawings.

Enter – to enter the drawings, simply provide a COMMENT WITH THE TITLE of the mystery novel you want a chance to win FREE. (Likes, etc., will not be considered as entering the drawing since some folks simply like to acknowledge their appreciation for the novel/author featured, etc.)

It’s that simple!

How Long Before Winner Announced? 

That depends. There are over 50 novels to be given away, so I want to give every member in the group a chance to see the drawing, so usually about three-five days depending on activity.

A few rules:

  • Only members of the group can enter the drawing; all members are eligible, including authors – they are readers/fans, too!
  • Members can enter as many drawings as you like, but keep in mind, the goal is to award as many members as possible, so multiple-winning members ay be avoided unless participation in the drawings dictate otherwise.
  • Please do not forward this announcement of the drawings to non-members as they are not eligible at this time. Though I welcome new members to the group, this 4-year birthday celebration is to thank all the current, loyal members of this group.
  • Non-USA contiguous & Canada will receive e-book alternative due to postage costs. Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction is a non-revenue, fan-based group and does not have the funds for the additional postage.
  • Substitutes may not be available, but not guaranteed.

If participation is low, remaining books will be held for later in the year. Any remaining books I have in my possession will be donated to the library of Lost-N-Found Youth, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to take homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths up to age 25 off the street and transition them into more permanent housing.

BOOK PROVIDED BY BUY MOORE BOOKS – (Matthew G. Moore)

Jackson Square Jazz – Greg Herren 

(2) Mardi Gras Mambo – Greg Herren

Bourbon Street Blues – Greg Herren

Murder in the Rue Delphine – Greg Herren 

Flight Dreams – Michael Craft

Bitch Slap – Michael Craft 

Shock to the System – Richard Stevenson

Third Man Out – Richard Stevenson

Death Trick – Richard Stevenson

Why Stop at Vengeance- Richard Stevenson 

(2) Lat Your Sleeping Head – Michael Nava

Assault with a Deadly Lie – Lev Raphael

An Echo of Death – Mark Zubro

Filmed to Death – Meg Perry 

No Escape – Nancy Sanra 

ALL OTHER BOOK TITLES; 

 (2) Pretty Boy Dead (A Kendall Parker Mystery) – Jon Michaelsen

(1) Time’s Rainbow: Writing Ourselves Back into American History (Volume 1)– ed; Lori L Lake & Christopher Hawthorne Moss

Death by Pride – Mark McNease

The Couple Next Door – Rick R. Reed

Criminal Gold Mystery series – Any one of copy of the series – Ann Aptaker

The Laconic Lumberjack (A Nick Williams Mystery – Book 4) – Frank W Butterfield

Hidden Identity – (The Jimmy McSwain Files – Book 1) – Adam Carpenter

Calvin’s Head – David Swatling

(2) A Very Public Eye (Book Two in The Public Eye Mystery Series) – Lori L. Lake

You Can Never Walk Away – Edward Kendrick

Body on Pine – Joseph R. G. DeMarco

Cited to Death – Meg Perry

Stacked to Death – Meg Perry

Researched to Death – Meg Perry

Boystown: Three Nick Nowack Mysteries – Marshall Thornton

Lay Your Sleeping Head – Michael Nava

Fever in the Dark: A Jane Lawless Mystery – Ellen Hart

(2) False Confessions (Doug Orlando Mystery – Book 1) – Steve Neil Johnson

(2) Final Atonement (Doug Orlando Mystery – Book 2) – Steve Neil Johnson

Alien Quest – Mark Zubro

Alien Home – Mark Zubro

Alien Victory – Mark Zubro

A Conspiracy of Fear – Mark Zubro

Pawn of Satan – Mark Zubro

Black and Blue, and Pretty Dead, Too – Mark Zubro

Another Dead Republican – Mark Zubro

Gentle – Mark Zubro

Dying To Play – Mark Zubro

Dying for a Thrill – Mark Zubro

 

Exclusive Excerpt: The Harrowing of Hell: The Jack Elliot Series Book 2 by Dean Kutzler

Blurb:

Would you destroy humanity’s only hope in order to kill its biggest injustice?

Deep in the heart of the Congo, a dangerous secret has been hidden from humanity for its protection. A secret linked to something so unjust that it has haunted the human race from the start of religion, and still exists today. If discovered, the veil of hope humanity holds so dear will be torn down and thrown away.

Life will literally become worthless.

There is also a dangerous artifact hidden along with the secret, one that claims to hold the power of resurrection. If this power falls into the wrong hands, there will be no stopping whoever wields the ancient item.

Jack and Calvin fly into the dangerous jungles of Africa to find the dangerous artifact and soon discover their biggest adversary, the clandestine organization called the Bene Elohim, is also searching for the relic.

As they seek out an old man living somewhere along the Congo River that supposedly has knowledge that will help them find the artifact, a mysterious teenage boy abducts Jack. With a machete in each hand and only a direction to follow, Calvin runs off into the jungle in hot pursuit, both arms swinging!

Will Calvin save Jack? Do they find the artifact and face destroying the only hope mankind has left?

The Harrowing of Hell, the second adventure in The Jack Elliot Thriller Series, is sure to deliver fast paced, thrilling action and adventure that isn’t laced with guns, bombs and nuclear genocide—but loaded with mind bombs that’ll have you thinking twice! It’s brilliantly plotted, full of twists and its feet are fully submerged in suspense.

M’banza – Kongo

2:00 am

The sound of gravel skittered about the ground, and he quickly fled the nakedness of the moonlight, slipping into the shadows of the night. With a trained eye, he watched from behind the safety of the church rubble as two men plodded carelessly across the ruins like amateurs. Not many people visited the cathedral ruins of M’banza-Kongo in Angola during the day—if at all, much less at 2 o’clock in the morning. He was certain they hadn’t seen him, his skills always on point. Amateurs or not, they were here for something more than site-seeing. Their timely arrival, may just work to his advantage. For now, he’d keep watch.

“Babe,” Calvin whispered, looking around. “You sure–ah, the Intel said here…at these ruins in Angola?”

All that remained of the sixteenth-century cathedral, the first Catholic Church in Africa built back in 1549, was the four-wall, stone and mortar foundation, sans a roof. Small as a one-room schoolhouse, the foundation was spotted with moss and completely intact, except for the door. Only a perfect archway remained where the door once stood. Alongside the doorway on the left was a square, moss-covered stone structure about a foot in height from the ground and covered with dead, dried up flowers from some long-ago ceremonial ritual or holiday.

Jack sighed, heavily, letting go of his goatee. It was almost a foot in length, now, and braided because it was easier to handle. “Um, do you really think I’d charter us a private plane—fly around the world for over twenty hours, just so we could sneak around this creepy place and come up empty-handed…if I wasn’t sure what the Intel said?” He snapped, louder than he intended.

Calvin just gave him a look.

“Sorry, Cal,” he said, frowning slightly. “I guess the jet lag is workin’ my nerves–and this place…”

“I know what you mean,” Calvin said, nodding. “There’s just something about I can’t put my finger on it, but it feels…”

“Wrong?”

“Yes–it feels wrong here like we don’t belong and I can’t shake the feeling we’re being watched,” he said, stepping over the crumbling curb and onto the walkway leading up to the church.

“That’s just your paranoia. Who the hell would come out here in the middle of the night–”

Calvin gave him another look.

Jack rolled his eyes and said, “Well–you know what I mean, let’s just make it quick.”

“I’m not complaining, Babe,” he said, grabbing his arm and guiding him over the curb. “Actually, this is pretty exciting. It sure beats giving English lectures to entitled, snot-nosed freshmen at McGill.” Calvin used to be a college professor when they’d lived in Montréal.

“Well, I’m glad you’re enjoying this but it’s going to take a little getting used to for me. I used to be a writer, you know–writing about the people finding the artifacts and such. Not doing the actual finding.”

“Look at this place,” Calvin said. “It’s amazing how it’s lasted all these centuries.”

“The locals called the church,” peeking at the iPad Mini in his bag, Jack pronounced, “nzo a ukisi or, get this—charm in the form of a building. They also referred to it as nkulumbimbi or built by angels overnight.

“Charm, huh? Angels? Right up our alley.”

Jack and Calvin have been together for almost six years, living in Montreal, until Jack’s uncle and father were murdered at the hands of his mother. Jack’s uncle left him a fortune, along with his brownstone in New York City. Since discovering the temple and dangerous book hidden below the brownstone last year, Jack and Calvin left Montréal and moved into the brownstone to keep the secret safe. Thanks to the financial freedom the inheritance brought, they decided to start a quest, to seek out other potentially harmful artifacts. Gaining Intel on the mysterious items had proven to be their biggest challenge. They were on their first mission, going off a tip Moe, Jack’s friend and computer genius, hacked from the United States government database.

“Are you sure no one’s been out here looking for it already?” Calvin asked as they walked down the grassy path leading up to the church.

“Moe said the Intel is fresh. Plus, it’s low priority because the government doesn’t actually believe in magical artifacts.”

“Tell that to Fox and Scully. If the government didn’t believe, why keep the Intel?”

“You’ve got a point. Which is why we’re here,” Jack said with a smile.

Suddenly, a cool wind blew down through the missing roof of the cathedral and out the archway leading inside. The sharp, pungent smell of ozone bit their nostrils as it wafted over their faces. Jack and Calvin exchanged a glance.

“The pilot said we were lucky,” Jack said, swallowing hard, “because we flew in at the tail-end of Angola’s rainy season.”

“It’s not rain I’m worried about,” Calvin said, peeking into the church.

“It’s just the wind, come on. Let’s look inside,” Jack said, visually taking in the church. “Looks so small—to have been a cathedral.”

“Don’t forget…this structure’s almost five hundred years old. I’m sure it was pretty advanced for Angola at the time.”

Jack and Calvin stepped into the foundation, and the moss-dotted stonewalls of the cathedral instantly muffled the subtle night sounds of M’banza-Kongo. The inside of the cathedral was unremarkable with nothing left inside but some sort of tall, white wooden structure positioned in the center of the back wall. It resembled three planks of stadium seating, raised up on a small platform of stone and mortar.

It was recently built, likely to accommodate candles and flowers for when special Kongo traditions or occasions arose. The interior walls were merely a mirror of the outside stone and mortar structure, no interior facade. The floor was just heavily packed dirt from centuries of worshipping-feet.

Jack pulled an iPad Mini from his bag and opened up the Intel email he downloaded from Moe on the plan. He quickly scanned the data once again, rereading the highlighted lines and notes he’d made to the documentation on the plane when he’d briefed himself.

“According to the government files, there should be a clue, here—in this church, to where the necklace was hidden.”

“A clue?” Calvin asked. “Not the necklace or what the clue is?”

“No,” shaking his head, he said. “It just says a clue was left here. The rest is background info. Didn’t you read the Intel I forwarded you?”

Calvin looked the other way, whistling to himself. He’d slept for most of the flight to Angola. He could sleep anywhere, anytime–any circumstance.

Jack rolled his eyes and went back to the iPad Mini. “Legend has it that Nzinga Mbemba, better known as King Afonso I, after his baptism and conversion to Christianity when the Portuguese arrived around 1491, had his mother buried alive,” he swallowed hard and continued, “because she refused to remove the necklace. King Afonso said that worshiping false idols angered the one true God and would bring damnation to the Kongo.”

“Whoa… I thought my relationship with my mother was strained.”

“Yeah,” Jack said, stroking his goatee, feeling the tension in the braid. “Nobody beats mine.”

Calvin nodded, looking away. “Wait a minute, hold up…are you saying the necklace is buried in a grave somewhere, here?” He shuddered. “Because we didn’t bring shovels and I’m not ready to meet Zom-bo Mom-Bo of the Kon-go.”

Jack read from the iPad Mini. “It says here that King Afonso dug up her grave and retrieved the necklace because he said…great care should be taken in hiding something so powerful and evil.” He skimmed through the file. “Right––here it is…the rumor is that King Afonso left a clue in the church because of a vision he had in a dream. In the vision, he saw himself winning a battle against his half-brother, Mpanzu a Kitima, even though Kitima’s army far outnumbered Afonso’s.

It’s alleged that he used the necklace to win the battle.”

“What a loving family member…he buries dear ole Moms alive for not taking her idol off, then digs her up to win a battle against his brother, half—no less. And the kids at McGill think they have a rough life.”

Color washed over Jack’s face in the darkness of the Kongo night as he flipped through more pages on the device. “…He wielded the necklace like a torch and a bright light erupted high, in the sky. And from this light appeared Saint James and five heavenly-armed horsemen, looming over Kitima’s army. Kitima and his men were so frightened by the divine omen that they instantly fled the battlefield… Saint James…Saint James? Hold on, I remember reading something else about him.” Jack scrolled further down. “Okay, here it is…The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints teaches its disciples that Saint James was resurrected, along with two other apostles, Peter, and John. Together with Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith, they restored priesthood authority with apostolic succession unto the earth.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“I haven’t a clue,” Jack said, pulling at the braided goatee.

“Wait… Did you say they were resurrected? I thought Jesus was the only one that was resurrected?”

Jack rolled his eyes, again. “You know how much I know about religion, but—”

“Ah, yeah. As much as my students know how to speak Swahili,” Calvin said, cutting him off.

“Very funny, but I can tell you with some certainty that Jesus wasn’t the only person resurrected.”

“Really?” Calvin said, genuinely surprised.

“Whaaa? You mean to tell me you never heard of all the miracles Jesus performed?”

“Sure, something about loaves and fishes being multiplied—oh—and something about water into wine? I’ve heard about him.”

Jack shook his head. “How has a highly regarded, tenured English Professor at a prominent university like McGill never heard about Jesus traveling the land, healing and raising people from the dead?”

“Judge not, lest thee be judged! Or something to that effect,” Calvin said with a shrug.

“Resurrection… Do you think this artifact could have something to do with resurrection? I guess in the wrong hands something like that could be considered dangerous.”

“I’d say the coincidence is too sharp to overlook.”

Suddenly, a loud cracking sound pierced the quiet night melody of M’banza-Kongo. Both men whipped their heads in the direction of the doorway, then back to each other. Jack quickly stuffed the iPad Mini back into his bag and nodded slightly to the right. Then they both quietly tiptoed towards the opposite walls; Calvin on the right, Jack on the left.

Slowly and as quietly as possible, they each crept towards the archway entrance, keeping pace with each other, until they were standing on each side of the doorway. Calvin held up a hand, motioning Jack to stay put as he inched his head around, far enough to sneak a peek. Nothing.

Jack went to step outside the church, and Calvin laid a hand on his chest, shaking his head. Even though they knew trouble was a good possibility on this mission, neither of them had the good sense to bring any weapons. Regardless, Calvin wasn’t about to let Jack get hurt.

He dug into his pocket and retrieved a small flashlight, but didn’t turn it on so as not to illuminate their whereabouts any further. “Stay here while I have a look around,” he whispered. “It’s probably nothing but a gecko or whatever else creeps around the Kongo.”

Jack watched Calvin disappear into the night, around the corner of the church before he had a chance to protest. A few agonizing minutes passed by before he thought about going out to find him but quickly dashed that thought because he knew it wasn’t a good idea. Calvin would be furious, and he didn’t want to risk running into him without him knowing who it was.

He couldn’t tolerate the worried-waiting and he couldn’t go look for Calvin. He glanced at his watch. Five, minutes. Five, long, agonizing minutes Calvin has been gone. Cocking his ear towards the doorway he closed his eyes, held his breath and listened, nothing but the quiet sounds of the Kongo.

When he opened his eyes a dark figure was standing just outside the doorway and he opened his mouth to yell when a hand reached out and clamped his mouth shut.

“Sssshh…it’s just me,” whispered Calvin, stepping back inside. When he felt the tension release from Jack’s body, he removed his hand.

Jack backed up and took a deep breath. Slowly exhaling, he said, “I nearly shit my pants! A little warning next time, aye?”

“Sorry, I saw your eyes closed and didn’t want to startle you. What the hell were you doing, anyway? Taking a nap?”

“No…I was worried about you. I was trying to listen for sounds.”

“I don’t know if you know this, but it works better if you use your ears,” Calvin said with a straight face.

“I know that—haven’t you ever heard that if shut off one of your senses that the others get sharper?”

Calvin’s face remained blank and unblinking.

“Like when a person goes blind and—awww, forget it!” Jack said, poking him in the gut. “Sometimes I wonder about you. If it weren’t for that handsome smile, and those dreamy eyes that day in the basilica… Well?”

“Well—well what? Wells are usually full of water.”

“I’m being serious,” Jack said. “Well…what did you find outside?”

“Oh! Nothing.”

Jack shook his head.

“I did see where some rocks may have fallen off part of the ruins, but it’s hard to say. I circled around the church twice, and I didn’t see anyone or…”

“Or what?”

“Or anything. Maybe it was just the wind. Let’s just see if we can find the clue and get the Hades outta here.”

“Agreed,” Jack said, fishing the iPad Mini back out from his bag. “Okay, let’s think about this. I guess we should’ve done that beforehand.” He gave him a knowing look.

“Spilled milk and all,” Calvin said with a smile.

“Right. Okay, think. We’re looking for a clue in a church—“

“Ah, technically a cathedral.”

Jack looked up from the iPad Mini. “I thought you didn’t read the Intel?”

“Whaaa…I never said I didn’t read it—just not all of it. Almost fifty years after it was built,” Calvin said, looking around, “it was elevated from a church––to the status of cathedral.”

Jack rolled his eyes, again. “You slept for most of the flight. I don’t recall you reading anything. I don’t recall you doing anything but sleeping, oh, and going to the bathroom on the plane.”

“I like to read on the john.”

“Wow. Alright, enough playing around.”

“Who’s playing,” he asked, surprised.

“Let’s think. What do we know so far?”

“King Afonso buried his mother alive with the artifact. Later, he dug ‘er up and used the artifact against his brother in war. He held the artifact in the air and the resurrected Saint James and friends appear in the sky and chase off the King’s brother, winning him the war. Seeing something like that would be very impactful—something you’d never forget. Let’s start with the friends. Does it mention who the five horsemen were?”

Calvin—always a bit of a prankster, but he was always on his game when it counted.

“No, but I’ll bet the farm that it was the two apostles, Peter and John and probably,” Jack scrolled down on the iPad Mini, “Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith.”

“I know my tenure is for English, but two and two only add up to four, Babe.”

Jack grabbed his goatee. “I’m just trying to think it through—looking for a connection.”

“Do we know who Cowdery and Smith were in history?” Calvin asked, nodding at the iPad Mini.

“Well, there’s no internet connection and unfortunately, the Iridium 9575

Extreme Satellite Phones I ordered for us didn’t come in before we left…we are so unprepared. But if I know Moe, he’s pretty thorough.” Jack found the information.

“Sure enough,” he said, nodding. “Moe, you are the best! There is a downloaded link attached to each name.”

Jack scanned the information while Calvin took another peek out the doorway, making sure no one was listening in. When he came back, Jack was finished reviewing the files on both men.

“Oliver Cowdery was associated with Joseph Smith and the development of the Latter Day Saint Movement in the 1800s. Joseph Smith––get this––was known for finding and translating the golden plates.”

“Golden plates? Like dinnerware at Macy’s, plates?”

“No—like actual gold plates that were etched with words like pages of a book––a book, Cal!” Jack said, barely able to contain his excitement. “It says Joseph Smith claims that in a vision, an angel named Moroni led him to the place where the plates were buried underground, in a stone box, not far from his home.”

“You’re talkin’ about the book hidden in the temple, under the brownstone—like this is another copy or something. Does it say what the book is about?” Calvin asked.

Jack read a little more to himself out loud, then said, “I knew I’d heard this story before. It’s the Book of Mormon.”

“Um, I guess you’re not referring to the show on Broadway.”

“Joseph Smith supposedly found these golden plates, like pages of a book, this angel—Moroni—led him to and gave him something to translate the plates with because it was written in what he called reformed Egyptian. The plates were the source for the Book of Mormon. It’s like their bible and it even says witnesses attest to seeing the golden plates bound together with wire in the form of a book. The original first hundred and sixteen pages were lost before being translated, but—”

He looked down and read, “The pivotal event of the Book of Mormon is an appearance of Jesus Christ in the Americas shortly after his resurrection.”

“Okay, I follow the whole resurrection angle…but getting back to King Afonso, because he’s the one that left the clue. He saw that vision back in the fifteenth century, hundreds of years before the lifetime of both Cowdery and Smith. A vision, from the future?

“Why not? Isn’t that what prophets do? Predict the future from visions? History is loaded with them. And remember, it wasn’t a vision in his head. He supposedly used this artifact to produce that image,” Jack said.

“Assuming you’re correct and King Afonso summoned Saint James and the other apostles, Peter and John, along with Cowdery and Smith…Who was the fifth horseman?”

“Good question, but there aren’t any more hidden links from Moe.”

“And I wonder what’s up with the lost hundred and sixteen golden pages? What could be the significance of  that?”

“I don’t know,” he said, pulling his goatee. “You got a good point. Maybe it was to add credibility. Like how we’re wondering about it now and what the significance would be other than to make it seem like the truth.”

“Or, maybe it is the truth. Well, I think we’ve talked enough about it. Let’s see if we can find any clue that’s relevant to what we discussed,” Calvin said, pulling the small flashlight back out from his pocket and switching it on.

The incandescent light of the small flashlight filled the small cathedral and illuminated the moss-spotted stonewalls. Shadows danced about the uneven stones, bringing eerie life to the room.

“I think I liked it better with the lights off,” Jack said, producing an identical light from his bag. “Well, one good thing—we don’t have much ground to cover.”

Calvin and Jack scaled the inside of the cathedral-like two squirrels looking for nuts; testing stones for the slightest give and searching for patterns in everything.

They moved the white, wooden structure and more of the same: nothing.

“Time to move the search outside,” Calvin said.

“Do you think it’ll be okay with these lights?”

“Unfortunately, I don’t see any other way around it. When they were passing out superhero powers I should’ve grabbed see-in-the-dark instead.”

Jack waited for an elaboration, his eyes narrowing. When none came he said, “Okay, I’ll bite. What superpower did you take?”

“Studliness..” He said, grinning from cheek to cheek.

Jack poked him in the gut. “Come on, let’s make this quick.”

The two of them searched the ruins around the church, covering their flashlights with their hands in order to minimize being seen from afar. They repeated the process of pushing on stones and searching for clues or patterns on the outside of the structure, just like on the inside. When they were finished scouring every possible place for a clue to be hidden they met back at the entrance to the cathedral.

“I’ve searched everywhere,” Jack said, pulling on his goatee. “What are we missing? Maybe someone took the clue?”

“King Afonso was smart enough to be the King for over forty years, I don’t think he’d leave a clue that could be removed so easily. Let’s put on our thinking caps,”

Calvin said, pretending to tie cap-strings below his chin. “So far, what’s the common denominator?”

“Resurrection…has to be. He buried his mother alive and dug her up to get the artifact back. That’s sorta a resurrection. Then we have all the resurrected saints and the two men known for the golden plates—which were buried and dug up. Are we gonna have to find shovels here,” he said, looking around. “Because I didn’t research Home Depots in Angola.”

“Maybe not,” Calvin said, stroking his chin through the thick beard. He moved passed Jack and knelt before the square, moss-covered structure littered with dead flowers that sat on the ground outside the entrance.

“Praying for a clue?” Jack teased.

Calvin leaned further down until he was eye-level with the structure like he was examining it with a fine-toothed comb. “Hand me your uncle’s—ah, sorry, I mean your father’s old pocketknife, would ya?”

Jack fished the knife from his pocket, snapped it open and handed it over to Calvin. He took the pocketknife and started horizontally cutting into the moss about a couple inches down from the top. Shuffling his way around the square structure on his knees, he kept cutting into the thick moss until he was back to the point at which he’d started. Wiping the dirt off in a particularly thick piece of moss, he handed the knife back to Jack and stood up.

“Gardening?”

Calvin gave Jack that brilliant smile and said, “More like weeding. Whatever this little square piece of cement was meant for, I’m betting it was important to the church because it was placed right outside the door. As you can see, the locals today still find it important,” he said, brushing the dead flowers off the structure with the back of his arm. With the fingers of both hands, Calvin grasped the corner edge of the structure and heaved.

At first, the structure didn’t budge, but when Jack realized what Calvin was doing he jumped in and grabbed a corner. “On the count of three…one…two…three!”

With the added strength the mossy lid began to rise from the structure. Clingy roots stuck to the underside as Jack and Calvin lifted the lid off like a manhole cover and gently laid it aside.

Calvin retrieved his flashlight and aimed it down into the structure. Cobwebs and ancient dust littered the hole but they could clearly see that beneath the concrete structure a stone well of sorts that led down into the ground. The flashlight wasn’t strong enough to penetrate all the way to the bottom.

“Hey look, over there,” Jack said, guiding Calvin’s hand. Light instantly cascaded down the rocky wall of the structure and illuminated two columns of staggered holes running down into the darkness. “You think those were meant to be a ladder?”

Calvin reached inside the nearest hole, testing its depth. “Well, there’s only one way to find out.” Calvin lifted his leg, planted it into the nearest hole and tested its strength with a few firm stomps.

“Wait,” Jack said, grabbing Calvin’s shoulder. “Do you think it’s safe?”

“No. Did you bring a rope in that fashionable bag of yours?”

“No.”

Calvin continued climbing down into the hole, and Jack said, “Wait!”

“Did you find rope?”

“No, but maybe it’s too dangerous. We don’t know how far down it goes—”

“And we won’t––unless we climb down and find out,” he said, placing his other foot in another hole. “It feels pretty strong. I think it’ll be fine. Are you staying up here?”

Jack could’ve kicked himself for not being more prepared. There should’ve been a list of basics they brought with them like rope, sat-phones, water, etc. He didn’t want Calvin going down into that hole alone, but he also didn’t want both of them to be stuck down there with no one to get help. They were in a foreign country, on their own except for the commissioned pilot, waiting back on the plane and no one in the states knew they were here, except for Moe. And that wasn’t saying much.

Jack shook his head and said, “No, I’m coming with you.”

“Okay, be careful. Whoever built this was smart enough to leave a stone missing from behind the front ones,” he said, reaching into one of the holes.

“Makes it perfect to hold on to. If you feel yourself slipping, just do this.” Calvin let go of the stone-rungs and pushed his back completely against the wall with his hands splayed against the sides, like a chimney sweeper shimmying his way down a chimney.

“When did you take up rock climbing?” Jack asked.

“Too much reality TV, I guess,” he said, putting the flashlight in his mouth and continuing the climb down into the structure.

“Well, let’s hope it paid off.”

Jack carefully climbed into the square hole and disappeared from sight. A few moments later, a dark figure emerged from among the shadows of the ruins and silently rushed to the opening in the earth. Once the glow of Jack and Calvin’s flashlights slowly receded into the darkness of the structure, the figure climbed into the hole and disappeared as well.

Find out more about author, Dean Kutzler:

https://www.deankutzler.com

Happy Four Year Anniversary to the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group!

To help celebrate my four-year anniversary of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group, autographed copies of selected Gay & Lesbian mystery novels will be offered up to our devoted members who each will have a chance to win via drawings! Twenty authors and Matthew Moore’s of Buy More Books, have contributed over 50 books to give away!!

word murder written with an old typewriter

How Do I Enter to Win?

Easy – just watch for a notice posted in the group of a selected Autographed Copy featuring the title of the novel with corresponding book cover, and author.

Enter – to enter the drawing, simply provide a one-word comment for the novel you want a chance to win. (“Likes”, etc., will not be considered as entering the drawing since some folks use the feature to acknowledge appreciation for the novel/author featured, etc.)

It’s that simple!

How Long Before Winner Announced? 

That depends. There are over 50 novels to be given away, so I want to give every member in the group a chance to see the drawing notice, so usually three-five days depending on activity and scheduling.

A few rules:

  • Only members of the group can enter the drawing; all members are eligible, including authors – they are readers/fans, too! Since this is a private group, no new members will be added until the Anniversary Celebration drawings are concluded.
  • Members can enter as many drawings as you like, but keep in mind, the goal here is to award as many members as possible so multiple-winning members may be avoided unless participation in each drawing dictates differently.
  • Please do not forward the announcement of the drawings to non-members; they are not eligible. Though I welcome new members to the group, this 4-year birthday celebration is to thank all the current loyal membership.
  • Non-USA contiguous/Canada winners will receive e-book alternative due to postage costs. Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction is a non-revenue, fan-based group and does not have the funds for postage.
  • Substitutes may not be available.

Titles Provided by Buy Moore Books (Matthew Moore):

Jackson Square Jazz – Greg Herren

(2) Mardi Gras Mambo – Greg Herren

Bourbon Street Blues – Greg Herren

Murder in the Rue Delphine – Greg Herren

Flight Dreams – Michael Craft

Bitch Slap – Michael Craft

Shock to the System – Richard Stevenson

Third Man Out – Richard Stevenson

Death Trick – Richard Stevenson

Why Stop at Vengeance- Richard Stevenson

(2) Lat Your Sleeping Head – Michael Nava

The Death of a Constant Lover – Lev Raphael

Assault with a Deadly Lie – Lev Raphael

An Echo of Death – Mark Zubro

Filmed to Death – Meg Perry

No Escape – Nancy Sanra

Titles Donated by the Authors:

(2) Prince of the Sea – Jon Michaelsen

(2) Pretty Boy Dead – Jon Michaelsen

(1) Time’s Rainbow: Writing Ourselves Back into American History (Volume 1)– ed; Lori L Lake & Christopher Hawthorne Moss

Last Room on the Cliff’s Edge – Mark McNease

Death by Pride – Mark McNease

Rainey Bell Mystery series – any one copy of the six Rainey Bell Mysteries – R. E. Bradshaw

The Couple Next Door – Rick R. Reed

Genuine Gold – Ann Aptaker

The Laconic Lumberjack (A Nick Williams Mystery – Book 4) – Frank W Butterfield

Hidden Identity – (The Jimmy McSwain Files – Book 1) – Adam Carpenter

Calvin’s Head – David Swatling

(2) A Very Public Eye (Book Two in The Public Eye Mystery Series) – Lori L. Lake

You Can Never Walk Away – Edward Kendrick

Body on Pine – Joseph R. G. DeMarco

Cited to Death – Meg Perry

Stacked to Death – Meg Perry

Researched to Death – Meg Perry

Boystown: Three Nick Nowack Mysteries – Marshall Thornton

Lay Your Sleeping Head – Michael Nava

Fever in the Dark: A Jane Lawless Mystery – Ellen Hart

(2) False Confessions (Doug Orlando Mystery – Book 1) – Steve Neil Johnson

(2) Final Atonement (Doug Orlando Mystery – Book 2) – Steve Neil Johnson

Exclusive Excerpt: Rainey with a Chance of Hale (A Rainey Bell Thriller Book 6) by R.E. Bradshaw

Blurb:

Rainey Bell, a former FBI Behavioral Analyst, has had a couple of quiet years since her last brush with death. Her old teammate with the BAU and her children’s Godfather, Danny McNally, pays a visit to North Carolina from Quantico to escort Rainey into the Butner Federal Correctional Complex.

Rainey made a promise almost twenty years ago to a distraught mother of a missing child. The opportunity to fulfill that pledge, one she should never have made, presents itself in the form of Chance Obadiah Hale. The teenager Rainey believed responsible for Alyson Grayson’s disappearance was now a man in prison who wanted to talk, but only to Rainey.

Can Rainey and Danny finally get to the truth about Alyson and Chance? Or will Rainey’s stubborn belief in his guilt put everyone she loves in mortal danger? Eeny, meeny, miny, moe. Who will be the first to go?

Excerpt:

Chapter 2

January 9, 1998

Home of Joshua Lee Hale

Pembina, North Dakota

“It’s cold enough to freeze off body parts.”

Chance Hale ignored the federal agent seated on the other side of the kitchen table. The sixteen-year-old pressed on his temples with the palms of his hands, in what appeared to be an attempt to keep the contents of his skull inside.

FBI Special Agent Rainey Bell noted the pot resin stains on his index finger and thumb, the reek of stale cigarettes, and the nauseating stench of booze-laced puke-breath. While they waited for his father to come back from the garage with the other agent, Rainey kept the hung-over teenager talking. Rather, she talked, and he tried to remain upright.

Chance Hale was in deep trouble. A suspect in the disappearance of his fourteen-year-old neighbor, Alyson Grayson, he was connected by proximity to the two frozen bodies recently discovered in the lake behind his home. Two frozen bodies and a missing girl resulted in FBI involvement. Chance didn’t seem the least bit concerned.

Rainey looked out the window over the sink, continuing her weather observations, “Still spitting snow at zero degrees.” She glanced back at Chance. “What did they say the wind chill was—minus twenty-one? I could be out there, what, thirty minutes before my face froze? This is just nuts. Pulling me from Louisiana to the frozen tundra—I don’t think a prank deserved this assignment.”

Rainey saw a brief millisecond of eye contact. Chance took notice that she may be a fellow rule breaker.

“I’ve only been here a week. The bureau said I was transferred to fill a temporary vacancy. I’m calling bullshit on that one. It was that picture of super-agent Walsh standing in his front yard in his boxers that landed me here.”

Rainey made quote marks in the air and mocked the man she imitated with, “Mr. ‘My Security System Can’t Be Compromised.’ Ha!”

She flashed a self-satisfied smile at Chance. “Patriarchal narcissism is why I am here. Guys like him can’t abide being wrong or laughed at. I proved the one and certainly did the other.”

She waited for a comment, a nod, anything, but received only a vacant teenage stare. Forced to resume her monologue, she continued the tale of her removal to the frozen tundra.

“I suppose his being my supervisor brought with it a tad of insubordination. But, you know, sometimes you have to show a braggart he isn’t all that smart to make a point. Of course, the FBI frowns on that particular type of behavioral modification technique. Thus, here I sit with you freezing my ass off.”

Nothing, no reaction, not even a hint of a smile. Chance closed his eyes and rubbed his temples with his fingertips.

Rainey tried another tack. “You moved up here from North Carolina, didn’t you? Hillsborough, right? I grew up in Chapel Hill.”

A grunt was Chance’s only response, but he did respond. Progress had been made. Rainey abandoned her attempt to bond over shared nonconformist attitudes and stuck with their childhoods in warmer climes.

“You understand it takes time to adjust from coastal temps to ‘Oh, my God! I’m freezing my tits off,’ don’t you?”

“I don’t have tits,” the slump-shouldered teen said, still rubbing his temples.

“Balls then,” Rainey replied, dropping the “we can be friends” tone from her voice and adding, “Most mammals have tits, male and female. Unless you’re a platypus or a species of rodent, you have them too. I’m assuming you didn’t pay much attention in biology class—if you ever went.”

Chance stretched and yawned over a barely concealed, “Fuck you.”

It crossed Rainey’s mind that young Chance Hale needed to be reminded of the seriousness of his situation. He was the last person seen with Alyson Grayson and professed to have no memory of the early morning hours of New Year’s Day when she disappeared. The FBI was now at his home at the crack of dawn. If none of that raised young Chance’s heart rate, Rainey had to wonder what would? She pondered the idea that he was either a cold-blooded killer devoid of empathy, or he was just a drunk, drugged-out teenager with detachment issues.

It was well known that Chance drank excessively. Three days ago, he dropped out of school on his sixteenth birthday, though he had attended only enough to avoid a truancy charge. He worked as a mechanic on his family’s fleet of long-haul trucks. According to a completely frustrated and candid school counselor, the old pickup truck he restored seemed to be all that Chance cared about.

“He’s too smart to drop out like this,” the counselor said. “If he’d just sober up and try a little harder, he could do anything he wanted. He was in our school system for only three semesters. He was already in academic trouble when he enrolled.”

The counselor pulled a folder from one of the file cabinets lining the wall in her office.

“Let me just check my file.”

She read, silently nodding in agreement with her notes before she looked up and finished her assessment of young Mr. Hale.

“What I can tell you by law is that I believe his mother leaving when he was four years old did severe damage to such a young boy. I recommended to his mostly absent father that he get Chance into rehab and counseling. He refused to take the list of therapists I offered. It’s just a shame, really. Chance can be quite charming and engaging when he wants to be. Just ask that gaggle of girls that swoon every time he walks by.”

After an initial witness interview with Chance, who was not an official suspect at the time, he refused further questioning from Rainey and Supervisory Special Agent Stanley Hébert. Chance claimed his long-haul truck-driving father advised against it. Hébert, who had been observing Chance, was convinced it was not a coincidence two other bodies had been found behind his home.

“I know it in my bones, Bell. Something’s wrong in that house,” he said the previous evening when he dropped her back at the office. With his graying temples reflecting the car’s dome light, he declared, “I’m not going to let that son of a bitch get away with killing those girls.”

Rainey had only known SSA Hébert for seven days, but she liked him. She liked him enough not to be snarky when he called her hotel room in Grand Forks before dawn.

“Bell, get downstairs. We have to run up to Pembina. Locals say Joshua Hale came home about two this morning.”

“What time is it now?” Rainey had to ask because her eyes were not yet cooperating. They only burned and watered from lack of sleep on the unfamiliar hotel mattress, when she tried to focus on the bedside clock.

“It’s five a.m. The snow will slow us down a bit, but if we’re on the road in thirty, we can be there by sunrise.”

“I’ll be down in fifteen,” Rainey said, coming fully awake.

“Dress accordingly, we’re in for negative temps today.”

Rainey chuckled. “This adds a whole new level to being frozen out.”

Hébert, in standard North Dakota form, answered, “It’s not so bad. You’ll get used to it.”

“I don’t want to be here long enough to get used to it,” Rainey said without thinking.

“Well now, Special Agent Bell, you should have thought of that while you were down in the sunny south and before you told your last supervisor to ‘lighten up.’ Care to piss off two in a row?”

Rainey wasn’t about to let her career crash over a prank. She responded with a crisp, “No, sir. I’ll be right down.”

After a harrowing drive up US Highway-29, even with an experienced North Dakota winter driver, they arrived just as the sun began to rise. The ruse for a visit was a verification of the whereabouts of all males in the vicinity the night of Alyson Grayson’s disappearance, but they really wanted another crack at Chance. In his previous interviews, he had informed them that his dad was in Canada on a short run and didn’t make it back until the afternoon on the first day of 1998. Joshua Hale left again before Alyson was reported missing and had been on the road until late last night.

The polite knock garnered no interest from the occupants of the Hale home. The much more intrusive cop knock brought a woman wearing a turban and face cream to the door, where two freezing but smiling federal agents greeted her. She was tall and a redhead, judging by the curl peeking from the headdress. That’s about all Rainey could say about her, other than she looked unhappy to be answering the door at the crack of dawn.

“It’s a little early. What can I do for you?” she asked, tugging the thick robe tighter against the cold seeping under the storm door.

“Good morning. I’m SSA Hébert. Are you Jean Berry? I believe we’ve spoken on the phone.”

“Yes, Agent Hébert. How can I help you?”

“I’m here to see Joshua.”

“Wait here. I’ll get him,” she replied, in an accent Rainey recognized as originating in the Piedmont area of North Carolina.

“Who was that?” Rainey asked.

Hébert’s answer formed a trail of smoke, as he said, “Jean Berry. She works for Hale Trucking. That garage out back keeps their rigs on the road. Ms. Berry is here from the Carolina office to do parts inventory and accounting work for the shop. She does that about once a month. She has a private apartment and an office in the basement.”

Rainey wondered why she hadn’t seen anything about Jean Berry in Hébert’s case notes, or why this was the first she knew of a private apartment. He seemed to read her expression.

“This house was searched top to bottom. Alyson is not here.”

“What did she tell you about New Year’s Eve?”

“She wasn’t here that night. I verified with the home office in North Carolina that she drove up the next day after Alyson was reported missing. She answered the phone a time or two when I called to ask about Mr. Hale’s whereabouts. She’s usually a little nicer, but I guess it is early.”

Rainey didn’t think Jean Berry was all that “nice,” having left them to freeze on the steps until Joshua Lee Hale came to the door.

“Good morning, Mr. Hale. Sorry to knock so early, but you’re a hard man to catch at home. I’m Supervisory Special Agent Hébert with the FBI, and this is Special Agent Bell. Do you mind if we come in out of the cold to chat for a few minutes? It won’t take long.”

Hébert managed an invitation to the kitchen and scored a couple of hot cups of coffee, while he cagily pried information from Joshua Hale. Rainey admired Hébert’s non-confrontational style and relaxed into the role of quiet sidekick. She mostly watched Chance, who reluctantly joined them at his father’s request. The redhead had not reappeared.

“I got my logbook out in the cab of my truck. It’ll show when I entered the country from Canada on New Year’s Day,” Joshua said, as a way to back up his alibi. “I was on a run to Mexico City and stopped by the house for a couple of hours, then I was back on the road.”

Joshua started for the back door when Hébert asked, “May I come with you? I’d like to see this truck Chance restored. I hear it’s something.” He turned back to Chance. “A ’51 Chevy 3100, five-window, right?”

Chance only grunted, which Rainey was learning was his preferred response.

“He ain’t much for conversation in the mornings,” Joshua said of his son, almost apologetically.

While Hébert and Joshua Hale left to recover the trucker’s logbook from the eighteen-wheeler parked in the massive garage behind the house, Rainey was left with the insolent teenage boy. After nearly five years as a federal agent questioning cunning criminals, she knew how to handle the disrespectful, rebellious type. She figured Hébert had left her alone with Chance in hopes that a female could connect with the motherless child the counselor identified as in need of help. It didn’t appear to be working.

Rainey stood and walked to the kitchen counter. She topped off her cup with fresh brew from the half empty pot warming on the coffee maker and looked out the window toward the garage. The snow fell heavier now. The grayness of the day delayed the sunrise. The glass in the garage’s oversized rolling doors glowed with the stark white light of the fluorescent tubes illuminating the interior. As Rainey turned back to Chance, she noticed on the counter a picture of the sheepishly smiling teenager standing beside his pride and joy.

“The paint on this truck looks exactly like the original. That shade of green is hard to come by.”

Chance opened his eyes to see Rainey holding the framed picture in her hand. He didn’t say anything, but at least she had his attention.

She continued, “You did a great job on the woodwork. All hand-sanded and stained, I bet.” Softening her features and smiling not at him, but the photo, Rainey asked, “Did you do a wood floor in the bed too? I can’t tell from this picture.”

“Yes.”

Finally, she had drawn out a responsive syllable, and a whole word at that. Rainey leaped at the opening.

“What’s under the hood, restored original or custom?”

“Cust—”

That was the last syllable Chance Hale spoke before the wall behind Rainey buckled with an explosive concussion. She noticed a split second of total silence, as if the sound was too loud to hear, then came the blast that sent her diving for the floor. The picture frame and coffee cup flew from her hands. The shattered windows showered the room with tiny shards of glass. Wood splintered into skin ripping projectiles.

Rainey lay stunned on the floor, her ears ringing. As the air and disorientation began to clear, her instincts kicked in. She pushed herself up from the floor, grabbed the Glock from her waist, and went immediately into a defensive posture. She had no idea what had just happened, but it couldn’t be a good sign that snow mixed with bits of insulation floated into the kitchen through the gaping hole in the wall.

She called out to Chance, who was under the table, “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

Chance’s eyes were focused on a hubcap that spun like a top not two feet from the now wide-awake teenager. Rainey thought he might be thinking about how close it had come to taking his head off. A small secondary explosion made them both flinch.

Warily watching the door leading to the back porch for a foe and hoping for a friend, she tried again for a response. “Are you hurt? What the hell just happened?”

Rainey saw the hatred in his eyes when Chance responded, not with concern for his father, but with absolute abhorrence.

“That fucker blew up my truck.”

Rainey was still a bit disoriented she thought. Maybe she didn’t hear him correctly.

She asked one more time, “Are you hurt?”

Chance answered with a question. “If he isn’t dead, will you kill him?”

“Not unless I have to,” she said, moving her eyes from the door to the teenager.

“If I told you he was a killer, would it make a difference?”

Rainey glanced at the door and then back to Chance, before she answered, “No. I can’t just execute him.”

He gave Rainey a cold stare and declared, “I can.”

About the Author

http://www.rebradshawbooks.com/

Four-time Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Mystery—Rainey Nights (2012), Molly: House on Fire (2013), The Rainey Season (2014), and Relatively Rainey (2016)—and 2013 Rainbow Awards First Runner-up for Best Lesbian Novel, Out on the Panhandle, author R. E. Bradshaw began publishing in August of 2010. Before beginning a full-time writing career, she worked in professional theatre and also taught at both university and high school levels. A native of North Carolina, the setting for the majority of her novels, Bradshaw now makes her home in Oklahoma. Writing in many genres, from the fun southern romantic romps of the Adventures of Decky and Charlie series to the intensely bone-chilling Rainey Bell Thrillers, R. E. Bradshaw’s books offer something for everyone.

Exclusive Excerpt: Brownstone: A Jack Elliot Thriller (The Jack Elliot Series Book 1) by Dean Kutzler

Blurb:

The key to the world’s fate discovers a devastating secret that has been divinely hidden since the days of Genesis. As the centuries passed, what was once common knowledge of our ancient origins became purposefully hidden within the lies of clergy.

Jack Elliot–a journalist, living in Montréal–returns to his hometown of New York City to pay respect to his dying uncle. Jack soon learns foul play is at hand when he finally gets to visit dear Uncle Terry. The poor man has had a severe stroke, and, is struggling to talk to his favorite nephew.

Or, at least, that, is what Jack thinks.

Uncle Terry wasn’t struggling to talk to Jack, and, what happens next, sends Jack spiraling down a web of mystery. He gets more than he bargained for, on his trip home, when he finds himself entrenched in not one, but, two, murder cases, where he’s the prime suspect.

What Jack doesn’t know is that amidst all the murder, an organization created at the beginning of time has been patiently waiting for him to…ripen! They have big plans for Jack in this mystery and suspense filled book–plans that are tied back to the very beginning of mankind–and, if they find him, the world will be immeasurably changed most certainly not for the better.

What does a clandestine organization as old as creation want with Jack Elliot? Does Jack prove his innocence? Read the first book in the exciting new thriller series, Brownstone, and discover the true facts that will shock the world!

Excerpt:

2000 B.C.E.

The Temple at Dusk…

SHE HELD IT tightly to her chest, as though her unwavering determination could fulfill her prophecy. There was a time when a mere nod of her head could send the will of men withering from her sight before the red locks of her hair fell back into place. That time has long passed; stepping aside until the day it shall reign again.

Her day.

No one saw her enter the temple, coveted under the moonless night like felt, shifting on black satin. The night breeze cool across her back as she slipped passed the entrance.

No one must see.

Once inside, she held her torch beside the iron sconce protruding from the wall and its flame burst and flickered to life. The smell of sulfur reassured her safe passage; she could not trust all the sconces to be lit. Where she needed to journey was deep within the temple and what she held was too important for her to fail.

They could not harm her, the wrongful pact had been sealed, but foul her plans they certainly could.

The passageway was dark. Her feet fell softly on the solid hewn stone, barely visible between the lengths of sconces despite her torch, as she made her way around the first turn. She stopped to relight the iron sconce there, like a beacon. The temple should be empty, but she had to be careful. It had to be done and no one could know.

Especially Him.

She hefted it closer to her chest, cradling it like a stolen newborn and thrust the torch higher as she ventured down the impossible steps. The steps her people built. The steps her people had died for, never having the privilege of their use. What He’d done to them went beyond any justification that existed in this world. Had she not been warned by the infernal source, her fate would have followed and everything would have been lost to this new world.

A world of inequality.

The steps were never-ending, like the heat of her rage. The sweat of her people has long since dried on these stones, no one left to be avenged. Their unjust fate has been hidden from the infancy of this new world. A veil of lies disguised within a deceitful beginning and set off on the heels of destruction. She could not set her plan of the ages into motion until this deed was done. She’d vowed her existence to the cause. The cause for the original beginning.

Her cause.

She finished walking down the never-ending steps, out onto a small landing made from a large block of finely hewn stone. Her face softened at the struggle her people must have had with such a quarry. The landing led down a shorter set of steps, allowing access into a room or branching off to the right, into another passageway. She gazed down that passageway and sorrow filled the perfection of her face. She no longer needed to travel down that path. She forced her gaze forward and squeezed it, yet tighter, to her chest. The memory of her people heavy with this burden she now carried. Once she’s finished, she’d never walk these corridors in this form again.

She trotted down the short set of steps with renewed purpose and entered the immense chamber. Time would be the true test for this room, but not in her time. Wasting not another second, she traversed the great expanse of the chamber to a doorway at the back. It was unfair, she thought, what she was about to do. Then rage once more bubbled up from beneath and chased the fleeting thought. How could she feel such emotion when her people had suffered such an unfair fate? Were they not innocent once, too?

She took one last look at the chamber before she drove her torch through the doorway and entered the passageway. She could not falter now. She could not blanch at the injustice she was about to serve. Sorrow may have filled her heart, but her innocence had been ripped away along with her people.

She glanced up at the hopeful seed-filled pots lining the ledge of the passage while she made her way down toward the sacred footbath. Seeds of such hope, dashed by the light of day. It wouldn’t seem possible, but darkness was their only chance. She left the pots behind along with the memories and continued down the passageway.

She could hear the trickling of the sacred footbath now. The sound as soothing on her nerves as sipping from a communal bowl filled with a strong batch of the bappir drink. She marveled at the lost ingenuity of her people in the construction of this bath. Freshwater ran continuously down from inside the temple walls, filling the stone basin at the bottom and back out, never drying up, nor ever flooding the temple.

She rested her torch alongside the clever stone chair built into the temple wall for this simple yet necessary pleasure, lest she be marked, but she would not release her charge from her grasp, not even for a mere second. For as easily as it was here it could vanish just as simply. The lengths of her struggle must not be in vain.

She gathered her Pala dress around her knees and stepped into the basin. Cool, crystal-pure water splashed over her feet, then flowed from sight beneath the stone and a purifying sensation washed over her, starting from deep within and radiated throughout each perfect pore.

She gently squeezed her eyes shut and sank down into the chair; letting the sin she was about to commit wash from her soul, along with the dirt from her unlikely feet. She no longer needed to play by His rules, but tempt fate she would not. That was beyond both of their control.

She enjoyed the silky purification for as long as time would allow, still bound by the laws of this world. Her task awaited her just in the next chamber.

Stepping over the basin of the sacred footbath, she rose from the stone seat and collected her torch. As she plunged it through the doorway, the immaculate floor shimmered from the flickering flames, shadows growing both tall and short, as she gently padded on clean feet across the room to the corner.

Using the torch like a crutch, she knelt down, keeping her charge tight in her other arm, and angled the flame over the small sprout emerging from the stone floor. Its tiny leaves quivered in time with the flickering of light, and the first true smile since before her people’s fate, bloomed upon her perfect face like a desert blossom. She stared at the little sprout until her eyes grew cold and her smile wavered, and then fell flat.

It was time.

She pulled down heavy on the torch, the weight of her burden intolerable, and lifted herself from the corner. It began to pulse and radiate beneath her tight grasp, knowing its lengthy fate, as she walked away from the hopeful little sprout.

The altar was still warm, the sickeningly sweet scent of burnt flesh hung in the air, as she walked behind it. She glanced about the room to make sure no one had followed her.

Sidestepping the huge stone mural hanging above the altar, she reached up and gently depressed one of the stone blocks in the wall. It moved inward but an inch and muffled sounds of heavy stone wheels could be heard gently rolling behind the wall.

The rolling sounds ceased and the gigantic mural shifted a few feet to the right as pressure could be heard releasing from somewhere, revealing an empty space large enough for what she needed hidden from the world. Hidden, for a very long time to come.

She checked the room once more, then carefully placed the burden inside the secret space and touched the depressed stone.

As the stone raised flush with the wall, the mural slowly shifted back in place and more pressure was released.

The deed was done.

All that was left of her plan was time.

She tossed the torch into the altar and it blazed to life, flames nearly licking the stone ceiling. Once it died to a mere roar, her form appeared between the flames as she stood beneath the mural with both arms straight out from her sides.

She swung her empty palms down in front of her with a violent clap and shen-rings appeared in each. As she slowly raised them above her head her form withered, then fell to dust and the shen-rings disappeared.

Learn more about author Dean Kutzler and his novels; 

https://www.deankutzler.com

 

Exclusive Excerpt: The Excluded Exile (A Nick Williams Mystery Book 12) by Frank W Butterfield

Blurb

Monday, February 21, 1955

Nick and Carter are Down Under in Sydney at summer’s end and are looking forward to finally having time to spend at the beach so Carter can get in some surfing while Nick works on his tan as a surf widow.

Everything is going to plan until they forget to make it look like they slept in both beds and are asked to leave their hotel. Fortunately, they’re able to rent a house in the Eastern Suburbs atop a cliff that is two hundred feet above the Pacific. The house is perfect, with new furniture, an ocean-facing sunroom, and a housekeeper.

But then it starts to rain. And a dead body turns up in the kitchen, clobbered with a cast-iron skillet.

The questions start piling up. Who cleaned up the blood after the body was removed? Whose car is that parked at the end of the street? Will they ever make it to the beach?

In the end, it’s another trans-Pacific adventure for Nick and Carter that leads home in a number of unexpected ways.

Excerpt

“Mrs. Tutwiler is my name. You must be Mr. Williams and Mr. Jones.” She looked at Tony and Christine briefly and then back at me. “I was told it was just the two of you.”

I nodded and extended my hand. She didn’t take it, keeping her arms folded. I said, “There’s just the two of us renting the house. Our friends are flying back to San Francisco tomorrow.”

She raised one eyebrow. “I don’t see how, unless you brought your own plane. The next flight to America doesn’t leave until Thursday.”

“As a matter of fact, I did bring my own plane. Mrs. Morris here”—I nodded at Christine—”is the wife of our pilot. And Mr. Kalama is an employee. They’re all flying back to the U.S. in the morning.”

“I see. I suppose you’ll be wanting a tour.”

Without waiting for a reply, she turned and walked through the living room, which was furnished in Danish Modern, and into the front room that looked out over the ocean. “This is the sunroom.” It had a single sofa, bookended by two small tables, facing the windows. A veritable jungle of potted plants of various sizes stood in front of the window but didn’t obscure the stunning view of the cliffs and the water in the distance.

Moving back into the living room, she said, “Lounge.”

I looked at Carter, who shrugged. We followed her back into a room with a dining table and six chairs, china cabinet, and kitchen pass-through.

“Dining room.”

Turning right, she led us into a hallway and made another right that led to a largish bedroom. “Your bedroom.” More Danish Modern. The large bed had a headboard that was comprised of a bookshelf with sliding doors. Matching nightstands on either side had matching elongated lamps. A bureau and a wardrobe, both made of a light teak, faced the bed. There was no bathroom.

Silently moving through us, she led us back down the hall to a second bedroom, smaller than the first, but decorated just the same. “Guest bedroom.”

Further down from that was the bathroom, which was smallish but not too small. Without entering, she said, “Bathroom.”

She then led us back into the dining room and stood in front of a swinging door. “Behind here is the kitchen and my own quarters. I’ll thank you not to disturb my private area.”

I nodded. “Of course, not.”

“Any questions?”

I looked at Carter who appeared to be stunned. Turning back to Mrs. Tutwiler, I said, “I don’t think so. There’s a real estate—”

“Yes. Mr. Willoughby. I phoned him when I saw you drive up. He should be here momentarily.”

We all stood there for a long moment in an uncomfortable silence.

To fill the void, Christine asked, “Have you worked here long?”

Mrs. Tutwiler offered a sour grin. Before she could reply, there was a knock at the door.

Pushing through us, Mrs. Tutwiler said, “Excuse me,” and made her way to the door.

Tony whispered, “Scary.”

Christine said, “I keep waiting for her to say, ‘These are Mrs. DeWinter’s things,’.”

Tony laughed. “Like Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca.”

Christine looked at me. “You’ll have to call this place Manderley.”

I frowned. “What are you two talking about?”

Tony grinned. “You never saw the movie Rebecca?”

I shook my head.

Tony looked at Carter who said, “Me, neither.”

Tony shrugged. “You two are too young. You’ll have to watch it some time. You’ll see what we mean.”

Right then, Mrs. Tutwiler announced, “Mr. Willoughby.” With that, she walked through us and into the kitchen.

Purchase link to the entire Nick Williams Mysteries; 

https://www.amazon.com/Frank-W.-Butterfield/e/B00IYRFIEE/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1