Publication date: October 19th, 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads F lowers for the Sea is a dark, dazzling debut novella that reads like Ro...

Publication date: October 19th, 2021

Flowers for the Sea is a dark, dazzling debut novella that reads like Rosemary's Baby by way of Octavia E. Butler.

We are a people who do not forget.

Survivors from a flooded kingdom struggle alone on an ark. Resources are scant, and ravenous beasts circle. Their fangs are sharp.

Among the refugees is Iraxi: ostracized, despised, and a commoner who refused a prince, she’s pregnant with a child that might be more than human. Her fate may be darker and more powerful than she can imagine.

Zin E. Rocklyn’s extraordinary debut is a lush, gothic fantasy about the prices we pay and the vengeance we seek. 

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Iraxi has reason to be angry. She's stuck on a ship in a flooded world, surrounded on all sides by those who despise her, and monsters of air and sea who are waiting to end her. She's pregnant with a child she doesn't want in a new world where no one has yet to carry to term. She's not even sure the child is human. Her hatred burns her from within, leaving no room for anything else. Her anger is like the water that filled her world, rising swiftly and submerging everything in its path. 
I am insistence personified, and the spite I draw is my sustenance...

 This is a novella that will speak to all your senses. Not only is Iraxi's rage all-consuming, but the descriptions of the ship and its people will also engulf you. Seventeen hundred forty-three days at sea. She is locked in this place surrounded by rotting wood, the sea lapping at it from all sides, mildewing in the salty air. The stink of bodies and fluids and blood all around. Unable to even escape to fresh air due to the razorfangs from the sky and tentacles from the depths. This narrative will envelop you in its depictions like a dark, oily dream from which you can't awake. 

While the eldritch creatures encircling the ship would typically be the focus of a novella, Rocklyn beckons us to sit with Iraxi in her boiling resentment and fury. We experience her loathed pregnancy, the debilitating changes to her body, and eventually the horror of her labor and what comes after. If you are looking for a dark and disturbing visceral tale, Iraxi's account will whisper bleakly to you. Flowers For The Sea is ghastly and gloriously weird and well worth the read. 

green background with woman's silhouette wrapped in tentacles

Publication date: October 11th, 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads In a battle between two ancient evils, can one naïve young man become the ...

Publication date: October 11th, 2021

In a battle between two ancient evils, can one naïve young man become the last hope against powerful creatures of legend?

David Dolan thinks he’s already got the world figured out. But when a collapsed bridge plunges him into the icy Hudson, he’s pulled deep into the deadly realm that exists between life and death. And with his earthly form trapped in a coma, he’s vulnerable to the horde of demons hell-bent on his utter destruction.

Traversing the road to the afterlife, David seeks the wisdom and skills he needs to fight the demonic forces reigning havoc on his allies above ground. But as one hellish threat closes in on his defenseless body, David must defeat another terrifying fiend waiting in the shadows to use him…

Can David escape the world beneath the veil in time to stop the bloodshed?

Beneath the Veil is the gripping first book in The Valor of Valhalla dark urban fantasy series. If you like reluctant heroes, infernal myths, and bloody epic clashes, then you’ll love Martin Kearns’s formidable foray into the unknown.

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An eerie feeling of solitude wrapped around Mark at the small campsite he had set up earlier in the week for some solace with his fiancé, Lindsay.

She hadn't come back to the campsite after full dark despite having them both done so  for the last week and a half camping in the Catskill mountains. Being back before dark was more an act of instinct, though there had been a few other outdoor adventurers, fewer and fewer dotted their days as the chill set in and the morning frost lingered well beyond its welcome.  
He called into the tree line for her, with no response. Lindsay had taken to heading down to a small waterfall around sunset each night after they'd chanced upon it during one of their exploratory hikes. She had said the lightly cascading water helped her to collect her thoughts as she watched daylight disappear behind the rocky outcrops of Sage's Ravine. However, tonight was first time she'd been this late to return.

Mark moved a pot of boiling water to a stone and pulled a jacket on over his windbreaker. The hike to the little falls, as they'd come to call them, was only a few minutes, but being without the right gear in the wilderness stretches time. Headlamp in pocket while the twilight still served as an ally, he set out on the path to find her. Mark found himself slowly descending a small, steep incline and his mind conjured a few horrible occurrences which may have befallen her. Eyes on his feet for most of the descent, he was then jarred by a peculiar sight as his eyelids flicked up. There were four or five headlamps of varying colors ahead, which wasn't unique in that his own lamp could emit three, but the movements seemed off. Too smooth in their fluidity. The lights appeared as a dance.

Mark walked a few more paces and made out Lindsay's outline. She moved along with the lights weaving her arms and twirling her body with abandon.

"Linds?" Mark asked. The lights halted their waltz and Lindsay's arms fell to her sides at the pace of deciduous leaves meeting the ground around them.

"Come. Come and hold me," Lindsay said.
Marks eyes were keen enough to see the headlamps did not hold human outlines of their own.

​"Let's get back to the site," he said, but found his feet moving him closer to her. Lindsay wasn't wearing her coat despite the autumn chill. Her feet and shoulders bare, she slowly swayed her hips and held her arms out to draw him.

Mark spied the arc of mushrooms between them and carefully stepped over the toadstool barrier to take her hands. The orbs of light sprang into motion and Mark's eyes followed. A hypnotic daze rose through his pragmatic defenses and soon his body swayed along with Lindsay's. The faeries of fall delighted about the young lovers as night's curtain fell on the day. Their bodies, naked and sapped, would not be found until the evanescence of spring revoked the snows of a coming winter.

I am an English and special education teacher and what draws me to the classroom year after year are the reactions my students give to the literature I present to them. Stories were my first love and during rare moments of quiet my mind turns toward those I've watched, read, and lived. They bring to mind possibilities, which are really where the seeds of a story begin. I truly hope to bring creative tales to readers who, like me, enjoy finding themselves lost somewhere in a world of endless possibilities.

Currently reading: Sabrine Elouali and Todd Keisling  

Publication date: October 31, 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads J oey’s a mechanic. One night, she receives a call from her best friend, ask...

Raven with red bleeding eye on purple background

Publication date: October 31, 2021

Joey’s a mechanic. One night, she receives a call from her best friend, asking for his car to be picked up from the infamous body dumping grounds of Baltimore: Leakin Park. When she arrives, there’s little more around than a stalled-out car and a couple of ravens, so she leaves only with the car. Back at the body shop, it doesn’t take long for the smell of rot to permeate the trunk. Inside? A corpse. The cops say her friend did it. His absence is his guilt, but Joey knows better. She will find her missing friend and she will prove his innocence.

But something isn’t right in Baltimore. It’s not just the feeling that someone is always watching from the city’s abandoned buildings... Her search for her friend reveals something much worse hiding under the city. A ghost town, a reaper, regret. Suddenly, the city’s rage and the stink rising out of the dirt make much more sense. 

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Bleedmore, Bodymore is a YA fantasy horror with a very nice nod to Greek mythology. Our protagonist, Joey, is thrown immediately into the fray, showing up in the slums of Leakin Park after a call requesting a tow. Only there's a body in the trunk of the car of her friend and her friend is nowhere in sight. Who is the person in the trunk? Did her friend kill him? If he didn't, why has he disappeared? Down the rabbit hole goes Joey into a whole different world transposed on the city of Baltimore and Leakin Park.

I was all for the atmosphere of this read. It's dark and gritty showing the shadowed side of Baltimore. There's a dank and mealy vibe coating everything and you can conjure the wet asphalt and garbage smell in the air without even trying. That's where the novel excelled. The pacing worked well enough though there were some slowdowns and breakneck parts. 

Where it lost me was taking a hard right turn beyond the murder and mystery sticking us straight into mythology and the underworld. I was expecting paranormal. That wasn't the problem. Additionally, I love a good mythology/horror combination, but I was honestly confused enough to backtrack thinking I missed something. Once I reoriented myself, I loved the addition—this dark underworld filled with a ghost town, a river of regret to drown in, heart-devouring raven shifters, a reaper, and dead-but-not-dead abusive alcoholic fathers. (Tw - abuse, alcoholism, and suicide)

I didn't care so much for Joey aka Josephine. I wanted to like her and I wanted to care about her plight but it didn't happen. She never quite made it past a one-dimensional character for me. She comes across as being very immature and she makes some extremely stupid decisions for seemingly no other reason than "I'm tough and edgy". If I had to hear about her licking or sucking on her lip piercing ONE MORE TIME, I was going to lose it. As far as the secondary characters went, the most interesting ones were Charon and Val. I wanted to know more about them. This is a continued series though so surely the author will expand on that later.  

There's plenty here that worked well of though. There is loads of action and it moves the story along fairly quickly. Joey is actually pretty witty and some of the dialogue will give you a laugh. There's some great imagery as well and the atmosphere is top notch. I feel like this would be better promoted as urban fantasy versus horror, though it certainly contains horror elements. Hopefully, book two can address some of the weaknesses and give a stronger more cohesive read. 

Publication date: September 21st, 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads ' H umans, as is there wont, have a terrible habit of making a mess ...

Gothic house surrounded by a white fence

Publication date: September 21st, 2021

'Humans, as is there wont, have a terrible habit of making a mess of everything.'

Mirabelle has always known she is a monster. When the glamour protecting her unusual family from the human world is torn and an orphaned brother and sister stumble upon Rookhaven, Mirabelle soon discovers that friendship can be found in the outside world.

But as something far more sinister comes to threaten them all, it quickly becomes clear that the true monsters aren't necessarily the ones you can see.

A thought-provoking, chilling and beautifully written novel, Pádraig Kenny's The Monsters of Rookhhaven, stunningly illustrated by Edward Bettison, explores difference and empathy through the eyes of characters you won't want to let go.

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The Monsters of Rookhaven is a delightful middle-grade gothic tale of a little girl named Mirabelle and her family. For centuries, the Family has lived protected in their home away from the eyes of most humans. Until one day, the veil tears and two abandoned and abused human children find their way in. They are promptly and fiercely championed by seemingly normal Mirabelle to stay. While the rest of those living at the estate are unsure, the children are quickly settled in amongst the strange and usual characters.  The rift, however, leaves the family vulnerable to those that might wish them harm and it has been out there patiently waiting. 

The world that Kenny weaves is mysterious and enchanting. The estate that the family lives on is brooding and sprawling, replete with unnatural flowers guarding the paths. Each of the family has a unique "talent". There's Uncle Betram, who can transform into a huge bear. Aunt Eliza is made up of spiders. Gideon can transport via portals. The twins, well they are their own breed. Piglet is the literal monster in the basement. We have to learn much later what their talent is, but the family keeps them behind a tremendous locked door and whispers "Piglet is dangerous." 

There are themes of friendships and found family, and how the monsters aren't always the one to be feared. It's not all love and sweetness though—the last half takes a very dark turn. There is a defined evil under the the burgeoning friendship and comfort that the family supplies. Secrets often can cause harm and there is a big ominous secret waiting in the wings for Mirabelle. It will change everything.

I was lucky enough to get The Monsters of Rookhaven on audiobook narrated by Emma Noakes. She has a gift with voices and made the listen that much more enjoyable. Her volume ebbed and flowed through all the different voices, bringing each character to life in turn. I found myself smiling while listening. I couldn't wait to get my earbuds plugged back in to this unforgettable story with its captivating narrator. 

Fans of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children will be charmed by this story. It's fantastical and magical. Perfect for middle-grade readers or for those wanting a little more enchantment in their lives. 

Publication date: October 5th, 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads Detective. Angel. Victim. Devil. A haunting tale of suspense, loss, isolati...

Publication date: October 5th, 2021

Detective. Angel. Victim. Devil.

A haunting tale of suspense, loss, isolation, contempt, and fear.

On November 1, 1951, war hero John Ashton was promoted to detective. His first assignment: find the district attorney’s missing daughter. But his only lead is Alena Francon, a high society sculptor and socialite committed to Bellevue’s psychiatric facility.

Alena has a story for the new detective. A story so outlandish John Ashton refuses to heed the warning. Alena admits to incarnating Golem, a demonic force, into her statue. A devil so profound he’s infiltrated every part of New York’s infrastructure. Even worse, he uses children to serve as bodily hosts for his demonic army, unleashing a horde of devils into our world.

When Alena’s confidant, Annette Flemming, confirms the existence of Golem, John is sent on a collision course where fate and destiny spiral into peril, and the future of the human race hangs in the balance.

The Devil Is In The Details!

Fans of The Silence of the Lambs, Clive Barker, John Connolly, old Stephen King, and Anne Rice will be fascinated by this edge of your seat psychological horror thriller with a story that tears out the heart of humanity and throws it on a slab to be feasted on.

Potential Trigger / Content Warnings

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Born in Brooklyn, New York, raised in Westchester County, New York, living in South Florida since 1992. A child of the 90’s PD has coined a new genre, Alternative Fiction. Why? Because Multi-Genre Author sounds like you’ve got marbles between your cheeks. 

 Horror, Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Supernatural, Dark Fiction, Thrillers and Mysteries, a little bit of sumpin sumpin for readers who enjoy intellectual and yet over the top lets blow our minds and rock out to amazing and extraordinary stories, heroes and villains. PD's latest release is The Rose Vol 1, a dystopian science fiction thriller, a series that features a sophisticated although primal and ravaging species of Alien Vampires living in hollow earth who have conspired with alien greys and elite humans in an attempt to subjugate the human population. Vol 1 was published on October 7, 2020 with Vol 2 slated for publication in early December 2021. PD will also publish his horror novel, Golem in early October 2021.

PD can best be described as a kind hearted, compassionate, hypnotizing, mesmerizing, do good save your life simpleton who would rather hang out all day with the characters in his books than venture too far away from home. A lover of isolation, meditating on the beach at sunrise, and howling at the moon after sunset, he’s either the life of the party or the oddball sitting alone in the corner with that really strange look in his eye as if he’s talking with people that are just not there, perhaps receiving a few concerned stares as he laughs at himself or maybe a funny joke one of those voices just told him. OH, All IS WELL ISN’T IT?

 PD loves the creative process that comes with writing. From the spawning of a new idea to jotting down notes or sending a hurried email to himself even during the most off time to do so (the book always come first), to the artful craft of editing all the way to publication, there is nothing better than producing an exceptional book. 

An avid reader who loves to talk books, PD will write short reaction reviews for the books he has finished and has not one issue answering questions from readers as they come.

So don’t miss a thing that PD has going on, check in often, like follow and share on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads and lets all have the time of our lives discussing what we all love best, BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS. 

O ctober is my absolute favorite month of the year!  There's the cooler weather, the smell of leaves, and of course, Halloween!  My birt...

October is my absolute favorite month of the year! 
There's the cooler weather, the smell of leaves, and of course, Halloween! 

My birthday is also on October 21st so it's a month-long celebration. It's the perfect month to settle in with a warm blanket and a scary book. 

If you are looking for a read for the season, here is October's roundup of anticipated horror releases! 

(If you plan on purchasing any of the books on this page, it would be awesome if you’d use the affiliate links. This helps to support the blog and doesn’t cost you a thing. Thanks!)

Publication date: September 28th, 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads DEXTER meets DEATH WISH in this pulse-pounding, relentlessly fast-paced ...

Looking down a gun barrel at the person holding it

Publication date: September 28th, 2021

DEXTER meets DEATH WISH in this pulse-pounding, relentlessly fast-paced thriller from the author of Bad Parts.


Ken Fujima, a downtrodden substitute teacher from suburban Pennsylvania, is trying to rebuild his life when his home is broken into by a pair of West Coast assassins. As part of a revenge scheme, they attack his wheelchair-bound father, forcing Ken to intervene.

During the scuffle Ken picks up a mysterious revolver to defend himself. What he soon learns is that the revolver is a cursed yakuza weapon that will remain fused to his hand until he either dies or kills six other people.

Tormented by this gruesome ultimatum, Ken teams up with his estranged brother, a recovering heroin addict, in hopes of targeting drug dealers responsible for recent overdoses among his high school students.

As hours tick away and other murderous opportunities arise, Ken strives to remain moral, but the haunted revolver has other ideas—if he won’t decide who dies, the gun will.

“An action-packed, surprise-filled, outrageously thrilling novel!”
Jeff Strand, author of Wolf Hunt

“Entry Wounds is a harrowing supernatural thriller filled with shootouts, bloodshed, betrayal—and best of all, a cursed revolver. As the body count rises, so too does the action in a roller coaster ride of a story that concludes with a fantastic twist I never saw coming. Great stuff, and I'll be keeping an eye out for whatever Brandon McNulty puts out next.”
Jeremy Bates, author of Suicide Forest and The Sleep Experiment

“Clever and gripping, Entry Wounds is a tour de force that moves as fast as the bullets from the cursed gun within its pages. You’re going to want to read this ASAP.”
Robert Swartwood, USA Today bestselling author of The Serial Killer's Wife

“A thought-provoking book of bullets and blood about a thirst for vengeance so palpable that it has its own agency. Entry Wounds makes the reader question whether, in the face of unstoppable lust for death, a predator is as tormented as his victim.”
L.C. Barlow, award-winning author of The Jack Harper Trilogy

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Growing impatient, she slammed the revolver’s butt against the door. It was a humid late-September night, and sweat greased her armpits and lower back. She wanted to remove her jacket, but its deep pocket was the only reasonable hiding place for her gunhand.

        Yes, gunhand. All one word. That was how she’d come to think of it. Not as a gun in her hand but a complete fusion of flesh and steel. Since she first grabbed it yesterday, she’d been unable to let go.


Brandon McNulty grew up loving monsters, demons, and the thrill of a great scare. Now he writes supernatural thrillers, horror, and other dark fiction. He is a graduate of Taos Toolbox Writers Workshop and a winner of both Pitch Wars and RevPit. He writes from Pennsylvania.

Publication date: September 22nd, 2020 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads Innsmouth University is a place with a sinister past and a terrifying pr...

Publication date: September 22nd, 2020

Innsmouth University is a place with a sinister past and a terrifying present. Two brilliant students, involved in illicit and unethical practices, believe they have found a cure for fear. The unwitting subjects of their experiments are subjected to a range of horrors as the students try to discover if it is possible for any individual to be truly fearless.

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Ashley Lister is a prolific writer of fiction across a broad range of genres, having written more than fifty full length titles and over a hundred short stories. He is the co-host of Blackpool's Pub Poets and a regular participant (and occasional winner) in their monthly Haiku Death Match.

Aside from regularly blogging about writing, Ashley also teaches creative writing in the North West of England. He has recently completed a PhD in creative writing where he looked at the relationship between plot and genre in short fiction.  

Publication date: August 31st, 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads In a quest to set himself right with the universe, Marcel travels cross-cou...

Publication date: August 31st, 2021

In a quest to set himself right with the universe, Marcel travels cross-country, finding himself in a small town in Alabama, rife with political tension surrounding a mysterious cult and a sheriff's election that may very well decide the fate of the country. Marcel struggles to uncover the secrets of the cult, the town, and the world itself—all while facing criminal charges for a murder he can't remember committing.

Part Southern Gothic, part metaphysical noir, with a touch of magic realism and a dash of dark comedy, the Chapel St. Perilous dares the reader to take a chance with fate.

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    Chapter 1

I don’t remember coming home. I recall the morning clearly, but the rest of the day comprises flashes, and then a long darkness that starts around midday. When I woke this morning to the sound of heavy knocking on the door, I was completely naked. 

Antoinette and I had not been lovers. She was my housemate, or more accurately, my landlady. The tension had been there from the outset. Good sense had prevailed for the first few weeks, but a pair of clowns can only walk along a tightrope for so long. And as I lay in bed, listening to the sound of beating fists on the front door, I assumed that in a state of blackout drunkenness we’d crossed the great divide. 

I pulled on my pants, put on a t-shirt, and looked out the window onto the small street next to our house to see two, three, four police cars. Even though everything else in Chickasaw is old, the police cars are brand-new. I washed my hands, splashed my face, went down the stairs, and opened the door. Two large male officers stood there. 

“Marcel Swart?”

“Uh… yes, sir.”

They’d found Antoinette’s car, they said, down by the swamp, and clothes, or pieces of clothes, and blood. 

“Do we have your permission to search the house?”

They moved into the doorway with such authority I felt incapable of resistance. I stepped aside, mumbled yes, certainly, come in. 

With gloved hands they invaded every corner of the kitchen. As I watched them rifle through drawers, I kept wondering if I should stop them, demand they leave. But I was a tenant, after all, and my only thought at the time was—do not get yourself into any trouble; make them believe you’re a good person, then they will like you, and they won’t harm you. 

Upstairs a young officer dug through my underwear drawer. He found a packet of unopened condoms, held it up, turned it about—to make sure, I assume, that none had been used. If you’ve ever been singled out for a bag search at customs you know what it feels like to suddenly doubt everything about yourself, to wonder, if just for a second, Am I carrying drugs? 

Only here the fear ran deeper. There was something in my drawers, something beneath my bed, or in the bags I had not yet fully unpacked, that marked me not as a drug user, but as a murderer. There was something about a murderer’s socks, or his underwear, or the stain on his shirt pocket, invisible to most, but to the trained eye as clear as surveillance tape footage and a signed confession.

“Would you be willing to come to the station, to talk to us?” the young officer asked me. He looked to be in his early thirties, neatly shaven, hair trimmed. I could see beneath his jacket he had the kind of body that comes only through daily workouts, through a disciplined lifestyle. “Sir?” 

“Umm. Why do you want me to come down to the station?”

“Like to ask you a few questions. You’d drive yourself down there.”

I agreed  

I wished I’d asked for time to shower, eat breakfast, change into something that made me look less destitute. As I brushed my teeth I noticed all our toiletries had been unpacked, left lying on the bathroom counter, and spread across the table next to the window. 

A Northern Cardinal landed on the branch just a few feet from me, separated only by a thin pane of glass. I wished to be that bright red bird. Then I remembered for the first time since I’d woken that morning—I am a wealthy man. I have money. But the thought brought me no comfort as I walked down the stairs, into the living room, out the front door. 

It was cool outside, the road damp. It must have rained the night before. Droplets lined the dark windows of my 1970 Ford Torino. The leather seats were cold this morning, and as I started the engine, that awful smell of burnt flesh filled the car. He was warning me of danger; I hadn’t heard from him like this in a while. My chest tightened; my arms and fingers were cold. 

I followed the police cars down Grant Street, past the public swimming pool, the library, the white, wooden Episcopal church, the park, the rows of wooden houses, some well-kept, others falling into ruin, past the old trucks parked on the lawns, past the cats, always the cats, everywhere, and the park, and the trees that reach across the street, leaves touching in the middle. There was a sign: Re-elect Sheriff Jones. Directly across the road, in front of one of the better preserved houses in the neighborhood, stood a campaign poster for his rival: Jefferson Lee III, whose eyes stared out from beneath his black hat and clawed into my soul. The smell of burning flesh was so strong I almost retched. 

I followed the cops right onto Route 43 and up to the humble station, faded redbrick, like an old schoolhouse, better suited to this time-forgotten neighborhood than the shiny cars now parked in front of it. 

Inside the station I was asked to sit on a wooden bench. 

“Do you want a coke?” Sergeant Alexis, the younger officer, asked me. 

“Sure.” I tapped my pockets to show I was up for it. 

“Don’t worry.” 

He paid close attention to how I pulled back the tab, my hand trembling slightly. I looked into his light blue eyes, smiled. 

The interview room was tiny, more like a cubicle. A single surveillance camera in the top right-hand corner peered down at me. When the door opened, a different, older man—with gray hair, a gray goatee, a silver cross around his neck, podgy in the way men over sixty often are—came into the room, I saw the road that lay between me and the needle. Alabama’s black soil would be my rest.  

“Detective Drew Franklin,” the older man said, as he sat down. “You’ve met Detective Alexis.”

“Yes, sir.” 

“You don’t come from ‘round here,” Franklin said.

He had a deep Alabama accent, and there was something awful about the man’s eyes, as if they’d been whisked up from hell, burned by the fires. 

“No, sir.” 

I didn’t feel obliged to give him more than that.  

He put his fist beneath his chin. 

“You live with Antoinette Dubois?”

“I do. She’s my housemate. Landlady.” 

I took a sip of coke and watched his eyes as they watched my hands. 

“Just a landlady?”

“How do you mean?” I took another sip. Something shifted in both of them, like dogs who smell fear. 

“Did you two ever get intimate?” Alexis asked me.

“Did you have sex with Antoinette Dubois?” Franklin leaned in closer.

I saw my fingers as these two men saw them, fumbling, playing with themselves, fidgeting. 

“We wanted to be together… sometimes…” I stammered. I heard myself as they heard me, a guilty man, caught in his lies. 

“You wanted to be with her?” Alexis asked. 

Then Franklin: “But she didn’t want to be with you.”

“It drove you crazy.”

“No, no, no.” I tapped the desk with my knuckles, a sudden rush of anger fueling me. “You don’t know anything.”

“Then tell us.”

“Educate us.”

“You don’t even know that she was… that she is dead.”

“Nobody said she was dead.”

“You’re treating it like a murder. You’re treating me…”

“We’re treatin’ you like what?”  

“Nothing.” I looked down. 

“Her car,” Franklin continued, “was found down by the Chickasaw creek. Blood. Pieces of torn clothing. Her panties were found in the car. All been sent to the crime lab. Soon, we’ll have DNA. We’ll know everything we need to know. But by then it’s gonna be too late. So you got somethin’ to tell us, tell us now. Then we can help you.”

“I would never.” I partially crushed the coke can. “I could not do, whatever you’re thinking. You haven’t found a body.”

“Are you concerned about us finding that body?” the younger man asked.  

“Does that worry you, son?”

“No, it doesn’t worry me.”

“You don’t care if she’s alive or dead?”

“Of course I care. I hope you find her alive.” I looked up from the can, stared into the older eyes, the younger eyes, back. I could not outstare them; I looked down. 

“Would you be willing to submit to a DNA sample?” Alexis asked. 

“Yes, I would. I want to help you.”

“Good,” Alexis said. 

He exited, leaving Franklin and me alone. The older man wrapped his right hand around his clenched, left fist, and squeezed.

“If Antoinette Dubois is alive, we want to find her. And we need to find her soon. If she’s dead, we gotta find the son of a bitch that done this.”

“Yes, sir. I want to help you.”

“What kind of animal does somethin’ like this? Murder a young woman, and throw away her body like a piece a trash?”

“Why do you keep talking about her body, like it’s already been found?”

He twisted the thick gold ring on his finger, moved it up and down. 

“Clock’s tickin’.” He placed his hand on my wrist. “If she’s alive, we need to find her now. Sometimes these sickos hold onto their victims for a while. Or, she may just have had an altercation, but managed to escape. If you know somethin’, you need to talk.” He pointed his finger at the space between my eyes, leaning so close to me I could feel his breath. “What you not tellin’ us?”

“There’s nothing… sir.” I felt the back of my head shake. 

“You know what’s going on here at the moment?”


“Sheriff’s election one week today. I know I shouldn’t be talkin’ about this. But the stakes are too high. The soul of our town’s at stake.”

“I understand, sir.”

“And you know the politics here, what’s going on here now, extends way beyond this little town.”

“Yes, I know, sir.” 

“You part of that cult, son?”

“It’s not a cult.”

He grabbed my wrist and slammed my arm against the table.

“Goddammit. You know Maggie?”

“Never met her.”

“You know what these folk think of her, don’t you?”

I looked up at the camera. What kind of game was this old man playing? Was he trying to create a faux-intimacy with me, to trick me into giving him what he wanted to hear? Or was he really on the side of re-electing Sheriff Jones? 

“They can’t hear us.” He glanced up at the camera. “They can only see. Now you need to speak and you need to speak quick before my partner gets back in here. I’m the only pro-Jones man in this building. You understand?”

“I hear you, sir. But what do you want me to tell you?”

“You know how they gonna make this look. Media gonna be all over this, like flies ‘round shit. They gonna say you done this ‘cuz you part of that cult. You know how things work round here, huh? Folks don’t take kindly to nothin’ that smells like… voodoo or black magic.”

“I didn’t come here to be a part of that…” 

“What else would some outta towner like yourself be doin’ here?” He stared at me for a long time, and I did my best to hold his gaze, certain now that this was all an act. He was no more for Jones than was anyone else in this building. He wanted to drive Maggie and all her followers out of town. “Well, did you do it?”

“Did I do what?”

“Kill her?” My hand shook as I reached for the coke can we both knew was empty. “If you killed her you need to tell me, so we can protect Maggie. And cut you a deal.”

“I didn’t…” My voice trembled.

“You looking at the needle, son. If you fess up, we can save you from that.”

“I didn’t do it.”

Alexis reentered. He wore blue plastic gloves and held a long cotton-tipped swab, which he inserted into my mouth. The tip brushed against the soft wall. 

“You drinkin’ last night?” Franklin asked as Alexis left the room. 

Telling the detective I couldn’t remember what had happened since sometime around midday would be as good as signing my own death warrant. I knew I had to start talking, but the longer I waited the colder my mind grew. I had to invent. If I’d woken up at home, in my bed, then I must have been at home in the evening. And we may very well have done what we often did.

“We drank in the lounge. After dinner. That was common.”

“You drank in the lounge?”

“Talking; listening to music. That was very normal for us. That was how I, how we, often spent our evenings.”

“How much you drink?”

The back of my neck tingled hot; spots of sweat pierced the skin. 

“A few glasses.”

“And then?”

“We finished up. We went to bed.” 

“You went to your bed, and she went to her bed?” 

“We didn’t have that kind of relationship, sir. We were friends.”

“It ain’t no crime sleepin’ with your landlady. ‘Specially not if she’s young, and you’s young. I don’t see no ring on your finger.” 

I held up my hand to show him he was correct.

“Means you were sleeping with her?”

“No, sir. I didn’t say that.”

“Mr. Swart, last night, you and Antoinette Dubois, by your own admission, were alone in the house you shared, drinkin’ into the night. Next mornin’ she’s missin’, and her car’s found down at the Chickasaw Creek, bloodstained clothes. You understand how this looks, son?”

“Of course I understand, how it looks. But I didn’t do anything wrong.”

I looked up at the camera in the corner and pictured the other room full of cops, watching me, trying to decide if I sat like a killer, drank coke like a killer, spoke, breathed, moved like a killer.  

“I’m the most senior detective in this station. If I tell ‘em I want time alone with you, cameras off, you better know they gonna listen.” 

I looked up at the ceiling. Closing my eyes, I tried to recall the events of yesterday, but the last images I could access were on Maggie’s island. 

“You want me to turn off the cameras? We can talk alone, if you got something to say.”

He dragged his chair across the room, climbed onto it, and fiddled with the wires at the back of the video camera. For all I knew, this was just another trick, another attempt at creating intimacy. But as his hand rested on my shoulder, I felt genuine comfort for the first time since I’d woken up that morning. Sitting opposite me again, he asked: “Cigarette?” He took a pack from his pocket and held it toward me. He had thick fingers. 

“I wouldn’t mind one, thank you.” 

“I love these things.” He lit one and handed it to me; lit his own. “I don’t care what they say. I’ll go to an early grave a happy man ‘fore I give these up.”

I wanted to say something clever, but nothing came to mind. 

“Maybe you want to back up a little bit. Tell me about yourself. How you come to be in this part of the world?”

“How far back do you want me to go, sir?”

He took a drag of his cigarette, resting his elbows up on the table. 

“I want to help that girl. I want to find her. You want to find her too, don’t you?” He pointed at me with his cigarette finger.

“Of course. I haven’t lied to you.”

“I ain’t here to call you no liar. But if you won’t tell me what happened last night, then maybe you can tell me what happened to bring you to this little town of Chickasaw. Outsiders like you, they come here for one reason.” He raised his index finger. “And that reason is Maggie. And anyone who comes to be with Maggie, well, they had something go wrong in their life.”

“Ha.” I laughed involuntarily, put my cigarette on the edge of the table, wiped my sweaty hands on my pants. “That’s a bit presumptuous, isn’t it?”

“Tell me I’m wrong.”

I sat back, crossing my arms over my chest. 

“How do I know that camera’s not filming us? How do I know you really side with Sheriff Jones?”

“We can go someplace else, where there ain’t a camera. We can take a drive, if you like. My colleagues here, they know I got some… how d’ya say? Unconventional methods.”

I didn’t know what to make of that. Had he just confessed to me that this was all an act, a way of getting me to drop my guard?

“I’m the only Jones man in this station. I want to keep Chickasaw unique. I know some folk say Maggie does weird things, but she does good work. She helped me.” From his wallet he took out a lottery ticket, which he placed on the table in front of me. “Won a hundred fifty thousand dollars on this one.” 

“Things went bad for you after that?” 

“Didn’t understand why.”

“And she helped you?”

He nodded slowly, pursing his lips into an inverted smile. 

“How much time you got?” I asked him.

“As I told you, son, time is tight. But you our best hope at this moment of figuring out what’s going on. Now, I know I was pushin’ you earlier. That’s my job. But I trust my gut. And my gut says you ain’t harmed that girl.” He took my arm and held it tight. “But I’m the only one on your side. And I tell you for certain, I’m the only one who want to help keep Maggie safe. That election’s in one week.” He got up and walked to the door. “Come on. I’ll tell ‘em we’re takin’ a ride, just you and me.”

“Okay. Let’s go.” 

“1970 Ford Torino,” he said, running his hand over my car. “A true classic.”

“Sure is.” 

“But we gonna take a ride in my car,” Franklin said, pointing at an unmarked black truck. “We can smoke in here. We’ll take a drive down to the water, to where they found her car this mornin’.”

“Sounds good to me.” 

We pulled out onto Route 43.  

I took a deep drag on my cigarette and looked out the window at a white house rotting in the ground, a dog chained to a tree, barking at us as we went by. Calm settled over me as I exhaled. I was an innocent man, and soon enough I’d be able to prove it.

Michael Rands is the author of the satirical, dark comedy, Praise Routine Number Four, co-author of the economic satire The Yamaguchi Manuscripts, and Kamikaze Economics (a story of modern Japan). He’s co-author of the humorous dictionary Stay Away from Mthatha. He co-created the audio drama The Crystal Set, and is one of the hosts on the podcast Detours Ahead. In South Africa he worked in television as a writer, director and producer. He taught English in Japan. He holds an MFA from Louisiana State University, and currently teaches English and Creative Writing at the college level. He lives with his wife and toddler in Alabama, not too far from a bayou. The Chapel St. Perilous is his second published novel.