As many of you know, I am in the middle of revisions for my second novel, THE HAUNTING OF RED BLOOD HILL (working title). As of today, I've made it through Chapter 12, phew! If I stay on track, I will have a pretty readable draft by the end of the month. Then I get to spend December fine tuning it for submission to my agent.
Since I'm feeling super accomplished, I thought I'd share with you a little excerpt from the story.
I hope you enjoy it!
“What’re you doing here, Ray?” Henry asked as the screen door slammed closed.
Ray smiled in response, but it was cruel, made more so by the wounds inflicted by Henry’s fists last night. His left eye was swollen, the underside black and purple, and a bruise discolored his jaw.
Henry stood behind me, and when his hand came to rest on my shoulder, Ray bared his teeth and bit into his lower lip.
“You come here to vandalize my house again?” Henry asked. “Your notes are getting a little tired.”
Ray's gaze flicked to the side of the house, and he shrugged. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He was lying, and he didn’t try to convince us otherwise. “But I did come to deliver some news.”
Henry’s hand slid from my shoulder as he moved to stand in front of me, crossing his arms over his chest. A lazy smile turned the corners of Ray’s mouth upward, but instead of softening his features, it hardened them. He reached inside his truck and pulled out a folded newspaper and threw it at Henry’s feet.
Peeking around him, I glanced at the front page. Search for Missing Girl Called Off. A picture of Margaret Henley smiled from below the headline.
“Seems like the trail went cold,” Ray said, the smile falling from his face, his voice taking on a hard edge. “I bet you’re as pleased as pie.”
Henry glanced down at the paper, and his shoulders flinched. Not enough for Ray to notice, but standing this close, I couldn’t miss it.
“I didn’t have anything to do with Margaret’s disappearance. And the fact that the search has been called off is nothing to celebrate.”
Ray clucked his tongue. “I figured you and your daddy here would be relieved. Maybe now some of the heat will subside and you can rejoin society all proper like. Maybe even some of the town will forget about what you two did.” He spit at Henry’s feet. “But I won’t. I won’t ever forget.”
Henry took a step forward, but my hand shot out and grabbed him by the elbow in a knee jerk reaction. He paused and glanced between my hand and my face, but when Ray cackled, Henry turned away.
“Isn’t that sweet?” Ray slapped the side of his leg, his mouth twisting in anger. “Is this how you do it? You lure ‘em in under the pretense of being a good guy? Do you wait until they trust you with their life before you take it from ‘em?”
Henry’s muscles flexed under my grip, but instead of letting go, I squeezed.
“Get outta here, Ray. Go, before we have a problem.” Henry’s voice was quiet and menacing. “Again.”
Ray’s hands twitched. “I came here to let you know that I won’t forget about Margaret, and I’ll be doing my damned best to make sure no one else forgets about her neither. I know the evil that lives inside of you.” Behind us, the screen door creaked opened. I didn’t have to turn to know it was Henry’s father. I could tell from the cadence of his feet and rhythmic drop of his cane. Ray’s gaze flicked up. “The evil that was born inside you, passed down from your daddy.”
“I’ve heard about enough from you, boy. Now do like my son said, and get outta here.”
Ray didn’t move. He stood his ground, his eyes dancing between Henry, his father, and me.
“I can’t hear you movin’.” There was a pull and release—the sound of a bullet falling into a chamber—and I jerked my gaze back to see Henry’s father point the rifle at Ray. “You’re trespassin’, and I don’t take kindly to it. Now, I’ve asked you nicely, but I’m not gonna ask again.”
“Dad,” Henry warned.
“Stay out of it, son.” His father raised the gun to his shoulder and tipped his head as if to look through the sights. Closing his eyes, he sucked in a steady breath.
“You know, you’re not doing anything to help your cause,” Ray said as Henry and I moved sideways. “You should be in jail, the both of you. And you—” Ray turned his attention to me. “Your days are numbered if this is the company you choose to keep. Just ask Margaret.” He looked skyward as if he’d just realized something important. “Oh, never mind. You can’t. Because she’s dead, buried somewhere up on that hill, along with Frannie.”
Ray pointed a finger at Henry and took a step forward, but before his toe hit the ground, a shot rang out. I flinched at the same time Henry pulled me tight to his chest and folded over me. Dirt exploded a foot in front of where Ray stood when the bullet buried itself in the earth.
“Jesus!” Ray shouted as he jumped back toward his truck. “You could’ve shot me, you crazy bastard.”
Henry straightened, but didn’t release me. His father dropped the gun to rest the butt on the porch. “You remember that. Just because I’m blind now, doesn’t mean I always was.”
Ray pulled himself into his truck, and the engine roared to life. He punched the gas, and peeled down the driveway leaving a trail of dirt and dust.
“What were you thinking?” Henry asked as he turned to his dad, his arm still curved around my back. “You could’ve shot him, and then what?”
“I wasn’t gonna shoot no one. I’ve been able to pop chickens at ten yards blindfolded since I was eight years old. I think I can purposely miss one without much effort.”
“Raymond Henley is not a chicken,” he said, exasperated.
His father laughed. “Coulda’ fooled me.” He paused and the smile that curled his lips fell. “Now get her outta here like I asked, and don’t bring her back. We don’t need the likes of Ray comin’ round here anymore.” Leaning the rifle against the side of the house, he grabbed his cane and shuffled inside.
We watched until the screen door fell closed. Henry’s hands moved to my shoulders, and he took a step back, separating us by inches.
“I’m sorry. He can be a little…intense.”
The dust from Ray’s truck tires settled to the ground. “Intense? Ray seems like a jerk to me.”
Henry's chest rumbled with laughter. “I was talking about my father.”
I smiled, and my gaze dropped for a second before I looked back up at him. “I know.”