||Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC
What If You Suddenly Became Psychic and Could Stop Two Cold-Blooded Killers?
What if...No One Believed You?
Barnes & Noble.com
Horror fiction's most original voice knows how to spin a tale that makes a reader double check the door locks and windows. It is at once smart and twisted. -- Gregg Olsen, New York Times Bestselling True-Crime Author
Small-town single mom Cass D'Angelo's life changes when a thunderstorm sweeps into her small Ohio River town. Cass must venture out in it to hunt for her son, seven-year-old Max. Lightning strikes a tree near her and a branch to the head knocks her unconscious. When Cass awakens a couple days later, she sees into the deepest secrets of those around her. Worse, some teenage girls have gone missing, and Cass sees their grisly fates. The discovery opens the door to a whole new life. The police are suspicious. The press wants to make her a celebrity. And the killers are desperate to know how she found their carefully concealed grave. Cass finds an ally in Dani Westwood, a local reporter. The two women begin to probe into the disappearances/murders and start to forge a romance. When Cass's little boy, Max, disappears, Cass must race against the clock to find him...before it's too late.
“First of all, there are rules.” She sits back in her chair, green eyes regarding the young couple. “Before we go any further, you have to agree to them.”
The young couple is desperate. The woman nods, eyes rimmed in red, moist. The man says, in a husky whisper, “Yes. Yes. If you can help us find him, we’ll agree to anything.” He rubs his hands on his khaki pants and she notices they are already stained dark with sweat. She feels a glimmer of sympathy, but then checks it: she’s learned that it’s best not to get too involved. There are things she might discover that will make their pain hers, and she’s had enough of that.
“The rules.” She meets each of their eyes, even the woman’s, for which she has to wait until she looks up from her gaze down at the nap of the carpet. But she waits, tacit agreement in the meeting of their eyes. “The rules are simple. First, I will not get involved with the police. No matter what. You’re free to consult them after you speak with me. You’re free to work with them, but I will not. Use what I tell you, but don’t ask me to tell them.” She pauses, cocks her head, listening for the sound of her own son upstairs. The floor creaks and there is a burst of canned laughter from his portable TV. She sighs. “Second: I can make you no promises. If we’re lucky, I’ll get some impressions. But that’s all they are. Impressions. Do you understand?”
The couple nods. The man whispers, “Sure.”
“I don’t get anything definitive. I may be able to help and then again, I may not. I just want you to understand that going in.”
“But you’ve been able to help…”
She holds up her hand.
“I know what I’ve done. And for every success, there are two failures. At least. You hear more about the successes than the failures. I get impressions. I don’t know where they come from. I don’t know why they come. But understand, sometimes they don’t come at all. And other times, they lead nowhere.
“The third condition is that I take no money for what I do. So please, no matter what the result, do not offer me money.” She’s had problems with credibility in the past because of this.
The couple nods again and she can see they’re getting impatient. She wants to help them, but fears so much what she might discover that she feels something very much like a rat gnawing at the inside of her stomach.
“Have you brought me something? Something of your son’s?”
The woman digs in her purse, sniffling. A tear drops from her eye and falls to the black leather of her purse. She hands her a Kleenex. The woman brings out a mitten, bright red, knitted, and a little dirty. The mother’s voice wavers, but she speaks as clearly as she can, holding back the sobs that are lurking just beneath her quavering voice. “They found this in the back yard when he disappeared.”
She nods and takes the mitten. She doesn’t really need it, having already seen what they have come to her for. But she hopes holding something from the missing five-year-old will add more detail to the portrait she saw in a dream just last night. She turns the mitten over in her hands and closes her eyes.
The room is silent; the ticking of the wall clock the only sound as its minute hand counts off the seconds.
Behind her eyelids, there is a swirl of colors, red predominant among them. Her throat is dry and she tries to work up some saliva.
She sees a house with a stone chimney. A thin plume of smoke emerges from the chimney and the house is old, two stories, a dingy white with the paint peeling back to reveal rotting wood. The windows downstairs are covered with plastic; the kind of stuff you’d get from the dry cleaners. Upstairs, one of the windows is boarded over, the other cracked.
“I see an old house,” she whispers, knowing that this clue is useless unless she can provide some real geographic markers.
“The house is on a hill, about halfway up.” She sees the tree line above and below the house, the way the backyard rises steeply into the woods. This is a house that’s not far away. She gets something, then: a detail that may help them.
“The house sits back from a cinder road, black cinders, like coal.”
She breathes deep, turning the mitten over, forgetting for the moment, where she is, and the people in the room with her.
“The yard’s messy. The grass wasn’t cut in the summer and it grows high and yellow. There’s all sorts of crap in the grass, an old lawn chair, rusty, with dirty green and white webbing that’s ripped and shredding.” Damn, she thinks, why all the detail about a lawn chair instead of something meaningful?
She tries to relax, putting herself in this cold place, standing on the road in front of the house. And she gets something she thinks might be useful.
“The house looks down on Summitville.” She says, naming the place where the three of them live, a little Ohio River town that’s as far west in Pennsylvania as one can go before crossing the border into Ohio. “I can see the curve of the river and the bridge to New Hope.”
In her mind’s eye, she turns, swears she can feel the cold snap of the wind on her cheeks, smell the snow that’s in the gray, low-hanging clouds, pressing in, ready to break open.
Is the boy in the house? Somehow, she doesn’t think so. Somehow, she knows the house is nothing more than a marker. These facts come to her minus logic, but she trusts them, knowing implicitly that they’re right.
They always have been.
She closes her eyes more tightly and looks down the road. It ends in a copse of woods not more than a hundred yards or so from the house. There’s a stand of pines, maybe some maples, and beyond them, a grassy field.
The grass is trampled down in one spot. She moves closer, and sees the boy, face down in the snow.
She snaps her eyes open, the bile rising so strong she grips her desk for a moment, trying to center herself, wishing she hadn’t seen what she saw. She lets the reality of the room filter back in.
“You’ll find your boy near that house. A house on a hill just up from where the bridge crosses from Summitville into New Hope. There’s a cinder road that leads up to this house.”
She feels her skin going pale and clammy. She can’t tell them. She can’t mete out that cruelty. Or would it be kind? She can’t call it, but she doesn’t want to be the one to tell them their little boy is dead.
“Is he okay?”
She shrugs. “I can’t tell you that.”
“But…” the father says.
She holds up her hand. “One more rule: when I’m finished, I’m finished.” She looks at them, biting her lip, ignoring the ball in her throat. “Now go see if you can find your boy.”
Midwest Book Review
Cass D'Angelo lives a regular life in small town, Ohio, with her seven-year-old son, Max. She works at a popular diner and has little unusual going on in her life except, initially, the lack of a girlfriend. Her whole life changes, however, after being struck on the head during a storm. When she wakes up in the hospital, she discovers that she's acquired psychic powers, specifically the ability to visualize the grisly deaths of local girls who have recently begun disappearing.
The killers are an insane, but handsome, psychopath and his smitten and spectacularly confused girlfriend. We find out very quickly that they worship a devil-like entity, "The Beast," and when they discover that Cass has directed the police to unearth one of their victims, they go after her and her family.
Like Charlaine Harris's Harper Connelly character, Cass D'Angelo is a psychic character who's fascinating to read about. She's thoughtful, smart, and capable. Unlike Harris's character, who travels around to use her gift, Cass is mostly happy and settled in her Ohio home and committed to family, friends, and her community. That makes her deadly visions and horror over the sick murders even more palpable. Everyone is at risk, even her own son.
Reed gives us alternate chapters from the perspective of the twisted killer's girlfriend and of our increasingly-stressed heroine. His secondary characters, particularly Cass's mother and Cass's journalist girlfriend, are lively, interesting, and essential. His use of tone, pacing, and atmosphere is masterful. A natural born storyteller, this author does an excellent job showing Cass's increasing panic in the face of the killers' single-minded murderous intent. With every page, the reader's tension level rises until the wild climax. At times graphic, always descriptive, and endlessly suspenseful, this novel takes you on a rocky ride through horror and anxiety. Will the killers be thwarted? Will Cass live to see another vision? Will she lose the one she loves the most?
Highly recommended for all who enjoy heart-pounding suspense, horror, and good old-fashioned fright within an expertly constructed narrative.
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