All Good Things Come to an End
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Exciting news! The Blood She Wore, Book Three in the Sarah Greene Mysteries series is scheduled for publication on November 2, 2020. In the meantime, check out the cover. I’ve also included a book excerpt.
If you’ve been reading the series, you know that Dos Santos hasn’t been faring too well lately. Sarah and Carter are doing their best to combat the insidious evil that’s consuming the town. But as soon as they put one bad thing to rest, more pop up. Don’t worry. The good guys still have some tricks up their sleeves.
You can find the book description and excerpt below. Peace and love.
The discovery of a cursed object drives Sarah Greene to uncover the secret of why the town’s founder, John Dos Santos, turned to the demonic. Meanwhile, the streets are plagued by a wave of senseless violence at the hands of strangers. And these ritualistic killings point to The Darkness. After everything that’s happened, Sarah finally knows her destiny. She must use her psychic ability to stop the evil from spreading. As she gets closer to the truth, she discovers a connection to John that centers around 1925, the year the founder died. More unnerving is the vision of his housekeeper’s ghost, covered in blood.
Sarah Greene’s eyes fluttered open, and she realized she was dressed, lying on top of the duvet. The dream had been a bad one. With a heaviness in her chest, she turned, hoping to find Joe. But all she saw was Gary, curled up in a ball next to her. What time was it? She reached over and picked up her Apple watch from the nightstand. Seven-thirty.
“Alyssa,” she said, groaning. “I need you.”
Clumsily pressing the wrinkles from her clothes, she wandered into the kitchen, where she found her ex-husband. He was sitting at the counter, drinking coffee and looking at his phone. When he heard her come in, Joe looked up.
“Hey,” he said.
Sarah grabbed a cup and poured coffee for herself. She took a seat next to him, unsure what to do or say. After he had told her about the accident with the girl all those years ago, he seemed to shut down. It was as if everything in his life had come undone, and he was finished. She remembered trying to kiss him. He’d withdrawn so much into himself, she was unable to get through. And so, feeling lonesome, she fell asleep next to him.
She reached out her hands and took his. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“No.” He stood and rinsed out his cup in the sink. “I have to meet Manny. I’ll see you tonight.”
“Joe?” He was about to leave the room, then stopped. “You’re a good man—a good human being. And I love you.”
“I’ll see you,” he said.
Sarah listened as the front door opened and closed. Gary trotted in and sat in front of her, his eyes squishy. She picked him up and set him on her lap. He began to purr. She wished she could see her therapist, but the woman was out of the country on vacation.
Drinking coffee, Sarah thought about their weekend away. It had been wonderful. Or had it? She tried recalling how Joe had acted in Half Moon Bay. Honestly, she’d had no inkling that something this bad was bothering him. Was he acting? Had their trip been his way of telling her goodbye? Stop being dramatic. He’s hurting, that’s all. Her thoughts drifted back to the nightmare.
Sarah stood before a huge, rambling mansion surrounded by pine trees. A terrible place filled with rage, it glowed a ghastly yellow in the moonlight. She had never seen this house before and wondered if it really existed.
As she stood there in the darkness, a girl screamed. Time sped up.
An invisible force pulled Sarah through the walls and into the house. She found herself at the base of a staircase.
An imposing woman stood on the landing. She wore a black beaded flapper gown. And in her hair, there was a silver filigree comb. Dismissively, she looked past Sarah at someone else and laughed.
“You know better than to come up here,” she said.
Somewhere, the girl screamed again. Bored, the woman glanced over her shoulder.
She began descending the stairs. As she did, she kicked something. It was a wooden spool of bright red thread. Tumbling down, it unraveled and eventually stopped at Sarah’s feet.
When she had reached the bottom of the stairs, the woman stood still, looking at Sarah this time. Sarah felt her neck, searching for her St. Michael medal. But it was gone.
“God won’t help you,” the woman said.
Her voice cut through Sarah’s brain like a hacksaw. Then, the woman’s eyes turned a liquid black.
Though disturbing, the nightmare hadn’t turned Sarah into a gibbering mess. She had almost died at Devil’s Bluff, and so much had happened since. But she had survived. What she felt now wasn’t fear—it was anger. Fury at the rampant evil that had put so many people in danger and had led to an innocent young woman’s death.
“God won’t help me?” she said, her tone mocking and defiant. “Just watch.”
As if in response, something outside made a loud thud, alerting the cat. He maowed nervously as Sarah set him on the floor. She went to the front door and listened. Then, she squinted through the peephole. The street was empty except for her dark green trash cans on the sidewalk.
Across the way, her neighbor, a heavyset old woman wearing a faded housecoat, kicked a plastic recycling box toward the curb. Sarah opened the door. The first thing she saw was the bright red smear across the door. She covered her mouth.
A dead, gray animal, mutilated beyond recognition, lay on her mat. A cat? The eyes and tongue had been cut out, and it was gutted. The blood covering its fur looked fresh. She gazed toward the street. The old woman was nowhere in sight.
She felt something brush up against her leg. Gary. Shooing him back, she closed the door. She stood there with her arms crossed and thought of calling Joe. No, this was something she needed to deal with.
“So, this is how we’re playing?” she said.
Gathering cleaning supplies, a garbage bag, and a hose, Sarah made a mental note to replace the ruined welcome mat.
* * *
Carter Wittgenstein was late. She pulled her white MINI Cooper into the lot behind The Cracked Pot and parked next to the catering van. One of the other servers—Sherrie—had texted her last minute, asking if Carter could cover her breakfast shift; her kid was sick.
After the dream she’d had the previous night, the last thing the girl wanted was to serve food to a bunch of chatty customers. But Sherrie had always been nice to her. The single mother was the one who had trained Carter when she first started. So, she agreed.
Hurrying in through the back, she realized she wouldn’t have time to fix her makeup. The line cooks grinned when they saw her pass by. One of them said something to the others.
“Escapó de Isla de las Muñecas.”
Ignoring their laughter, she continued into the bathroom to wash her hands. Taking a quick look in the mirror, she brushed back her short black hair, pasted on a plastic smile, and returned to the kitchen. She marched up to the wise-cracking line cook and pointed a finger at him.
“If you’re not careful, Hector, I’ll send you to the Island of the Dolls. And by the way, they hate short men.”
Satisfied, she walked away. The line cook looked sheepishly at the others while they jeered him.
Carter entered the restaurant area. Another server, loaded down with plates, nodded toward the counter where Tim Whatley sat, brooding. The last time she had seen him, he had a moustache. Now, he was clean shaven.
Poor Tim. Carter knew how he felt, having witnessed something unexplainable. All of it, in fact, had made no sense. Not to a cop who had been trained to look at facts and evidence. Though he hadn’t told her what he’d seen that night at the women’s shelter, she was certain it was bad.
“Have you decided?” she said.
“No. I still don’t know if what I saw was real.”
Carter stifled a laugh. “I mean, about breakfast.”
“Oh. Um, bacon and eggs over easy.”
She felt sorry for him. Tim was around her age. When she had first met him, he seemed confident. And happy. Now, he was sullen and resistant to making eye contact. She hoped he wasn’t suffering from depression—a condition she was all too familiar with.
“I’ll make sure you get extra bacon,” she said, and walked away to put in his order.
He thought again about that awful night. Looking up at the ceiling and finding Ana Robles on her hands and knees, naked, her head twisted all the way around so she could see him better. And her tongue, impossibly long and snake-like. Take me now, cop, she had said.
In a few minutes, Carter returned with Tim’s food, warning him about the hot plate.
“Can I ask you a question?” He leaned forward and spoke softly. “These things I saw. Is this what it’s like for you and Sarah?”
Carter didn’t know what to say. For most of her life, she had been keenly aware of the paranormal. At some point, she’d accepted that this was how she and others like her—and Sarah—saw the world. It was hard for her to imagine what it felt like not seeing the things that were always lurking in the shadows and in dark dreams.
The leering face of the demoniac she had killed materialized in front of her eyes, reminding her of her nightmare. To dispel it, she looked toward the windows and focused on the normal traffic outside. When her eyes met Tim’s again, she saw that he was desperate for an answer.
“It’s different for us,” she said. “We see things all the time. What’s weird is, now other people are starting to see them.”
“Is something bad happening in Dos Santos?”
She wanted to tell him everything. About The Darkness and the Guardian sworn to defeat it. Something was coming—something final. And she was scared. But she couldn’t risk it. In his current state, the truth could send the young cop over the edge.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I wish Harlan was around.” Shit, did I say that out loud?
“What do you mean?”
“It’s just that he’s been really nice to me and… Forget it. I’m being stupid.”
Behind her, the call bell rang. “Sorry, I need to get back to work.”
He grabbed her hand. “Is it true you were the one who killed that creepy dude? It was self-defense, right?”
“I…” Her chest ached. “I didn’t do anything.”
She left him and, hurrying through the kitchen, ran out the back door and stood in the parking lot. It was hard to catch her breath. So many times, she’d found herself out here, smoking.
Desperate for a cigarette, she remembered when Sarah had followed her, a stranger asking about The Darkness. And Carter pretending she didn’t know what the loopy lady was talking about. The dream came back to her full on.
Carter stood in the street again at night. The demoniac with the yellow-spiked hair laughed in that irritating high voice.
She grabbed the back of his neck and pulled him close. His skin felt damp and greasy.
Filled with a rage she had no idea was in her, she pressed the St. Benedict medal to his forehead until his head burst into a cold blue fire. She watched as he fell to his knees on the wet asphalt.
At that moment, she told herself she destroyed him only because she knew he would’ve killed Sarah and her.
Taking a calming breath, Carter knew what she would do now. Like the other horrible thing that happened when she was thirteen, she would push the events of that night way down deep. And she would lock them up there forever—where they could scream all they wanted. She was in control. And she would get on with her life.
I realize we are in holidays, but please take a moment to check out the cover of my newest novel, House of the Shrieking Woman. This is the second book in the Sarah Greene Mysteries series, scheduled for publication in early 2020. And to make December even sweeter, I’m also including a free chapter. Just scroll down to read it.
Enjoy this little taste of House of the Shrieking Woman. Peace and love.
Despite the trauma she suffered after uncovering the deadly secret behind a house’s dark, violent past, Sarah Greene agrees to investigate a series of disturbing incidents at a women’s shelter. These events began with the arrival of a young Guatemalan woman—a troubled victim of domestic abuse. The frightening episodes point to a demonic force. And Sarah suspects the entity is connected to a powerful evil infesting Dos Santos—an insidious presence known as The Darkness.
January, 2011. It’s an off-day. Laurel Diamanté looked out the window of her four-hundred-dollar-a-week hotel room just off Pioneer Square. Normally at this time of year, the pelting rain would drive the homeless deeper into the dark recesses and under-explored burrows of Seattle, occasionally creating a comical juxtaposition of awkwardness during one of the city’s famed underground tours. But today was different. The sky was dense, an unrelenting gray blanket that covered the city to keep in the cold. It was a good day, Laurel decided as she gathered up her things and left her dingy rooms for the last time.
The elevator was out of service again. The hotness at the back of her neck made her curse as she headed for the emergency exit. Down, down she went, struggling to keep her purse strap from sliding off the smooth shoulder of her waterproof raincoat as she carried the neatly wrapped present in both hands. Fortunately, it was only two flights.
When she emerged, she found the usual malingerers infesting the lobby. Unbathed old men mostly, single and immune from the foul weather that seeped in whenever anyone entered the building. Could they be of some use? No. Too weak. Or drunk. There were plenty of other good candidates. Taking a last look at the forlorn, toothless denizens, she turned sharply and headed for the front desk to pay her bill.
“Sorry to see you go,” the man with the lopsided haircut said. “That’ll be four hundred even. Did you take anything out of the honor bar?”
“No.” She counted out four crisp one-hundred-dollar bills. “I don’t drink, and I don’t eat snacks.”
“Okay.” He handed her a receipt, along with a card with a website address on it. “If you wouldn’t mind, could you fill out a survey online? Even better, could you post a Yelp review?”
She checked her watch. She still needed to get gas before heading to the office. The man at the front desk said goodbye, but she ignored him and walked briskly toward the door that led to the parking structure. She spotted an ashtray stand next to the doorway and deposited the card on top of a pile of yellowed, soggy butts.
One of Laurel’s tires was low. As she unlocked her car door, she hoped it wasn’t punctured. She would check it at the gas station. The heat radiating in her neck had transformed into a familiar dull throbbing at her temples as she placed the present on the passenger seat next to her purse and climbed in. Her bags were already in the trunk, along with everything else she needed. Nothing left to do now but get on the road.
It wasn’t long before she’d gassed up her car and checked the tire pressure. Nothing was wrong with the car. A woman dressed in active wear had just gotten into her vehicle as Laurel started to pull out. She shot in front of Laurel, causing her to slam on her brakes. The other woman stopped, too. Infuriated, Laurel got out and marched up to the driver’s side window.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said.
She tried to smile. But when she saw the strange, threatening look on Laurel’s face, she averted her eyes and reached for the switch to raise her window.
“You could get killed driving like that,” Laurel said in a voice that was not her own. Though she wore a smile, her expression was merciless.
“I… I didn’t mean to…”
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to harm you. You should be more careful.”
“Yes,” the other woman said in a meek voice.
“Have a nice day.”
As Laurel stepped back, the flustered woman put her car in gear and shot out of the gas station, barely missing a homeless man with a gimpy leg.
“We should all have a nice day,” Laurel said.
* * *
The day had gone surprisingly quickly, and Laurel looked forward to getting things underway. Her friend of six months was leaving the Catholic social services agency, Mary’s Gift, and they were going out to celebrate. Laurel had given her the present at lunch, a porcelain figure of a cocker spaniel. Her friend loved dogs but was allergic. If nothing else, the figurine had made her smile.
The plan was for Laurel to follow her friend to her house in Beacon Hill and drive the two of them to dinner. When they left a little after five, the sky was already black, and it was raining hard. Though it seemed to rain constantly in Seattle, people had never learned how to drive safely. There was always some idiot who thought he could speed down Pike Street toward the fish market. The unexpected steepness of the grade would get the best of him, and there would be the inevitable accident. Laurel planned to be extra careful.
“I’m starving,” her friend said as they got onto the I-90 toward Bellevue.
“I really appreciate you driving, Laurel. But did we really have to go so far for dinner?”
“It’s not that far. And I think you’re going to love the restaurant. So, what are your plans once you get to Phoenix?”
“I think I might take a few months off before looking for work.”
“I really will miss you, you know. But I understand. It’s this stupid weather.”
As if to underscore the remark, the sky lit up with tentacles of white crackling lightning. The inevitable thunder followed.
“Maybe I should go to Arizona, too,” Laurel said.
Her friend smiled. “That would be lovely. I was just getting to know you.”
Surprisingly, it took only fifteen minutes to get across the floating bridge. Laurel had already checked the directions and made her way easily to downtown Bellevue. On Bellevue Way NE, she spotted the restaurant and, luckily, found parking on the street.
“This place is beautiful,” her friend said as they entered.
“I knew you’d like it.”
Soon, they were seated. By the time her friend had returned from the restroom, their drinks were standing untouched on the table. Laurel raised her iced tea and toasted her friend, who had decided to treat herself to a martini since she wasn’t driving.
“I wish you all the happiness in the world,” Laurel said.
By the time the salads arrived, Laurel’s friend felt unwell. She thought she should go back to the restroom and splash cold water on her face. But when she tried standing, she became dizzy.
“Oh, dear,” Laurel said. “Was the martini too strong?”
“I feel so strange.”
A concerned restaurant manager came over. “Is there anything I can do?”
“My friend isn’t feeling well. Can you help me get her to our car?”
He and Laurel pulled the other woman to her feet.
“Oh, the bill,” Laurel said.
“Don’t worry about it.”
Outside, the rain was coming down in sheets. Laurel and the manager helped the other woman into the car as a busboy held an impossibly large umbrella over the three of them. Laurel thanked them and drove off, peering through the windshield to find her way to the I-90 south. Blindly, she grabbed a fresh water bottle and handed it to her friend.
“Here, drink this. You’re probably dehydrated.”
“You’re such a good friend,” the woman said.
* * *
Within hours, Laurel had maneuvered her car down a treacherous dark road and found the small parking lot in Mt. Ranier National Park. The rain had abated; a good sign. She parked and looked over at her friend, who was unconscious. Turning around, she reached for her purse on the backseat and removed the martini glass she’d stolen from the restaurant. In all the confusion, no one had missed it.
She got out and stood facing the public restrooms. It was quiet except for the howl of a sharp wind through the trees, and bitterly cold. She would have to work quickly. She dropped the glass and crushed it with her foot, destroying all evidence of the Ambien she’d used to incapacitate the victim.
She opened the trunk. On top of her suitcases lay a folded plastic tarp and a coil of yellow nylon rope. Next to those were a neatly folded bundle of heavy clothing and a pair of waterproof hiking boots. She took out the tarp and the rope and laid them on the ground next to the car’s passenger side. Grabbing the clothes, she went into the restroom to change.
Taking her time, Laurel opened the passenger door and turned the unconscious woman until her back faced the door and hooked her arms under the other’s so she could drag her out. As she did so, the woman groaned. Laurel laid her on the tarp and tied it up at the feet. To make things easier for the short trip to the grave, she fashioned a noose and place it around the victim’s neck.
Now came the hard part. She would have to haul the body down the trail about a mile. She’d estimated it would take her less than an hour. Taking a quick look around her, she locked up the vehicle, draped the nylon rope over her shoulder and, like a logger, dragged the woman by the neck.
As she made her way slowly, she found that the tarp left a noticeable trail, as if some giant snake were slithering through the forest. She stopped and looked up at the sky. Clouds were moving in again. Soon it would rain, washing away all the evidence.
“Why, Laurel?” she thought she heard the woman say.
As she struggled over rocks, and mud that in places was inches thick, she decided to answer the imagined question. Why indeed. Because it was all part of the plan. His plan. And she’d been promised a great reward. To know the unknowable. To lord it over the vermin that were doing nothing more than occupying space.
To be like a god.
Laurel was sweating, despite the cold. Ignoring the vice-like pain in her head, she continued on. Soon.
Eventually, she saw it up ahead—a tree trunk, its top bent completely over and back into the earth, forming a huge upside-down U. Opposite that, she knew, was a hollow.
Stopping to catch her breath, she looked around her as if someone might be spying. She dragged the woman’s body up to the partially obscured entrance. Pausing to look at the sky, she climbed through, turned around, and pulled the body in the rest of the way.
She’d already dug the grave the previous night. The shovel lay where she’d left it. The hole was partially filled with rainwater. No matter. Only one thing left to do before disposing of the evidence. She picked up the shovel. Standing over the woman’s body, she unrolled the tarp, exposing the head. Livid rope burns circumscribed the aged neck. The victim’s eyes were bulging from a lack of oxygen. By all rights, she should be dead.
But she wasn’t.
Her eyes searched Laurel’s face for a shred of mercy. But there was none to be found.
“This is for the best,” Laurel said.
Straightening, she raised the shovel over her head and, grunting, brought it down hard on the woman’s head. Through a wet, crunching noise, she thought she heard the woman mewling like an injured animal. Reveling in the victim’s suffering, she repeated the action two more times. When she was sure her friend was dead, she went about burying the body.
As she emerged from the hollow, flushed with exertion and sweating under her heavy clothing, a wolf bayed somewhere far off. Everything was happening according to plan. Easy peasy.
Her work here was done.
It’s almost Halloween, and I am celebrating by offering the Kindle version of my new horror collection, Come As You Are, for free October 27th through the 31st. I hope you’ll take advantage. The title work is a novella about a bullied middle school kid looking to take revenge. Only, the method he’s chosen puts himself and everyone around him in horrible danger. Here is what Readers’ Favorite had to say:
Ivan’s innocent and unwitting flirtation with the demonic is first-rate supernatural horror. Ramirez’s characters are beautifully defined, particularly Ivan and Hershey, the school janitor, who turns out to be much more than that. His plot is beautifully scripted and the suspense and supernatural dread emanating throughout this story make it impossible to put down until the last page is read. Come As You Are: A Short Novel and Nine Stories is highly recommended.
Get your free copy now—and Happy Halloween!
Some things are better left alone.
Ivan Stein isn’t sure he can survive seventh grade, let alone middle school. Living in a town known for its poverty and violence, he is regularly bullied along with his best friend, Ollie. But fortunes can change. One day, Ivan finds an old notebook in an abandoned locker at school. Despite a stark warning, he takes the book and unleashes powerful magic he can use to punish his enemies. But demonic forces control the book’s pages—a terrifying evil that will inflict suffering on the good as well as the bad and take his soul as payment.
Come As You Are is supernatural horror reimagined as Young Adult fiction. But don’t be fooled. Its violence will disturb you and its depiction of people living in a gloomy, desolate town without hope will make you cry. Pray that Ivan and his family can survive this dark, perilous journey.
Also in this collection:
“Brown the Recluse”
“I’ve Been Better”
“A Bone in the Throat”
“A Proper Revenge Takes Time”
“Something to Hold”
“The Widow and Her Magician”
Wow, check out this offer! Enter the giveaway and win free eBooks in multiple genres! Offer ends Wednesday, May 31st, 2017.
Enter here: https://AuthorsXP.com/mega