Saturday, September 24, 2011
My New EBook!
I've almost finished my new eBook, a thriller modestly titled The Bestseller.
It should be ready to go online in the next week or so.
Here's the first chapter -
Marina Del Ray, California, One Year Ago
Lightning flashed and Kirsty flinched and she jumped again two seconds later when a crack of thunder split the Californian night sky to her left. It had started to rain the moment she’d walked into the marina, small spots at first but the moment that she’d set foot on the wooden pier that led to the yachts it had started to come down in sheets and now she was soaked to the skin. She wiped her face with her hand. Part of her, the sensible part, knew that she should just turn around and go home. But the other part, the part that kept her awake at night, was forcing her to go on, She had to know for sure. She had to know the truth.
The main pier jutted out into the centre of the marina and smaller piers branched off it, left and right. The wooden planks creaked as she headed towards Wilson’s yacht. Kirsty had been there three times before, once to go sailing with Wilson, the second time for lunch and the third time…. She shuddered. She didn’t want to think about what had happened the third time.
Something small and furry ran across her path and she stifled a scream. She stopped and took slow deep breaths as she tried to quieten her racing heart. She didn’t want to be at the marina, she wanted to be at home in bed, either asleep or watching TV or reading a book, but she had to be there. There was no going back, she had to know if she was going crazy or if Eddie Wilson really wanted to kill her.
Lightning flashed again and this time she was ready for the crack of thunder that came a few seconds later. Wilson’s yacht was called THE WRITE WAY; it was just over thirty feet long with a single mast, the sail rolled up and hidden within a blue nylon sock. The yacht was in darkness. Wilson was the only owner who lived on his boat, all the rest were toys for weekend sailors. About half were yachts and catamarans but the rest were motorboats, floating gin palaces that rarely travelled more than a few miles or so from the marina.
The rain got heavier as she walked along the wooden pier towards the yacht. She stopped when she reached the stern and looked around. The marina was deserted and there had been no one in the office at the entrance. The metal mesh gate that led to the boats was never locked. She took her cellphone from her bag and covered it with her left hand to protect it from the rain as she peered at the screen. No one had called and there were no text messages. She’d arranged to meet Wilson for dinner at a Mexican restaurant that he’d said was one of his favourites, so hopefully he’d be sitting at the bar sipping a margarita while she did what she had to do. She switched off the phone and put it back in her pocket.
The yacht was tethered to the pier with ropes at either end and a third in the middle, and there was a power cable and a water hose snaking from a box by the stern into the rear cabin. She stepped carefully off the pier and onto the deck, holding on to the cabin roof to keep her balance as the boat shifted under her weight. Her heart was racing and she took slow, deep breaths to calm herself down. ‘It’s okay,’ she muttered. ‘We go in, we look at his laptop and we get out. Easy peasy lemon squeazy.’
She reached into the bag and pulled out bolt-cutters that she’d bought from a hardware store that morning along with two padlocks so that she could practise cutting the shackles. It took her only seconds to remove the lock and she tossed it into the water before pushing the hatch open. The wood grated and rain splattered inside. She ducked down into the cabin just as another bolt of lightning flashed out over the sea. It was harder to close the hatch than it had been to open it and she had to use all her weight to force it shut.
She stood in the darkness, listening to the sound of her own breathing. The boat was rocking from side to side in the wind and the metal lines rattled against the mast. She swallowed but her mouth was so dry that she almost gagged. She reached into her bag and pulled out a flashlight. She’d put duct tape across the glass with a small hole cut into it so that the light would be focussed into a thin, tight beam. It was a trick she’d read in a thriller once, and she grinned to herself when she switched it on and discovered that it worked. The thin beam illuminated a section of the wall not much bigger than a dinner plate and even someone walking along the pier wouldn’t be able to see the light.
At the far end of the main cabin was a door that led through to the sleeping area. There was a double bed there, she knew. With dark red silk sheets, the colour of dried blood. That was where she’d gone on the third visit to the boat. She shuddered. Water plopped from her wet hair onto the floor and she wiped her face with her sleeve as she played the beam of light along the wall and down to the built-in desk, being carful to avoid the brass porthole even though it was the side of the yacht facing away from the pier. Wilson’s MacBook Pro was there, open but switched off. There was a wooden chair in front of the desk and she sat down and pressed the button to turn on the computer. As the screen lit up she switched off the flashlight and placed it on the desk. There were three drawers on the right hand side of the desk and she pulled open the top one as she waited for the Mac to boot up.
There was a sketch pad in the drawer and she took it out. She flicked open the pad and her eyes widened when she saw the drawing on the first page. It was a caricature, a wide-eyed blonde with a pony tail sitting at an old-fashioned typewriter and above her head was a thought bubble filled with cuddly toys. The blonde had large breasts straining at the material of her too-tight shirt and Kristy self-consciously put her hand to her chest. She’d seen Wilson with the sketchpad during class but had always assumed that he was taking notes. “Bastard,’ she whispered.
The laptop finished booting up and she leaned forward and checked the icons on the desktop. There was only one Word document and it was titled ‘The Bestseller’. Kirsty shook her head in disgust. She’d always thought that he was joking when he’d said that was the title of his book.
She clicked on the file and it opened. She read the opening paragraphs with a growing look of disgust on her face. “Bastard, bastard, bastard,’ she muttered. She stood up, switched on the flashlight and went through the galley and pushed open the door to the bedroom. There were cupboards above the bed and she pulled them open. There were two spare pillows inside and she took them out and tossed them onto the bed. There was a large book against the side of the cupboard and next to it a bulky leather roll. She took out the book and opened it. It was a medical book. Anatomy. There were yellow Post-its marking several of the pages, all concerned with the joints. Knees, elbows, hips, the neck. She threw the book down and took out the roll. She knew from its weight what it contained. Her heart was pounding as she sat down on the bed and put the roll in her lap, holding the flashlight between her teeth as she used both hands to untie the two leather straps that secured the bundle. She opened it out to reveal a dozen gleaming steel knives with black wooden handles.
“You evil bastard,’ she muttered as she stared down at the knives. She knew now that everything that Wilson had written in his book was true. He was planning to kill her and dismember her body, hiding the pieces God knows where. She heard a peal of thunder, closer this time.
She retied the bundle and stood up. The knives weren’t proof but what Wilson had written on his laptop most definitely was. It was as good as a confession. She had to get a copy and take it to the police. Then they’d stop him. She patted the back pocket of her jeans to reassure herself that the thumbdrive was there, then opened the door and stepped into the main cabin, the tight beam of her flashlight playing across the floor. She yelped when the beam found a pair of black cowboy boots.
‘Surprise!” It was Wilson. His voice was a soft whisper, barely audible over the noise of the wind and the pattering of raindrops against the hull.
The flashlight fell from Kirsty’s hands, hit the floor, and rolled against the wall. She bent down, her heart racing and grabbed it, thanking God silently because the bulb hadn’t broken. She tucked the bundle of knives under her right arm and held the flashlight with both hands as she played the thin beam around the cabin.
Wilson had gone. For a brief moment she wondered if she’d imagined him and then there was a flash of lightning and she saw him standing with his back to the wall by the desk. His jet black hair was wet from the rain and he had a five o'clock shadow. Water was dripping down his face and he was grinning. Then just as quickly the cabin was plunged into darkness and she searched for him with the beam as a roll of thunder made her stomach vibrate.
He was standing by the computer, his hand resting on the keyboard. “You peeked,’ he said. She played the beam of light over his face. His clothes were soaked, through but he was grinning. It was a cruel grin, almost savage. He was tall and wiry, and dressed all in black: shirt, jeans, cowboy boots, and a long coat from which water was plopping onto the floor.
Kirsty tried to speak but the words caught in her throat. ‘I, I, I…’
“Yes, I know,’ said Wilson. He took a step towards her, still smiling.
She held up the bundle of knives. ‘I know what you were planning to do,’ she said.
‘What? What exactly do you think I was planning to do, Kirsty?’
‘Tell me. Maybe it’s all been a terrible misunderstanding.’
Lightning flashed and it was followed immediately by a crack of thunder. The storm was right overhead. The boat was rocking from side to side and Kirsty was having trouble maintaining her balance. She held up the roll of knives.. “You’re mad,’ she said.
He smiled easily. ‘I’m a little unhappy at the way you broke in her, but I wouldn’t say I’m mad.’
“You know what I mean,’ she said. ‘Deranged, Insane.’
‘Oh come on, Kirsty. You need to relax. Come on. Big breaths.’
Kirsty gestured at the laptop with the bundle. “You were going to do it, weren’t you? You were going to kill me and write about me.’
‘It’s a novel, Kirsty.’
“You were going to do it! For real!’
‘A work of fiction.’
‘I read it,’ said Kirsty. ‘I read what you wrote. You’re going to kill me. Then you’re going to butcher me.’ She held up the bundle and waved it at him. ‘With these! You bastard, you had it all planned. You were going to kill me and write a sick book about it.’
Wilson shook his head sadly. Kirsty realised that he had shifted his body so that she couldn’t see his right hand. She moved the beam but as she did he stepped forward. He was holding a frying pan and he swung it at her, hard. She jumped back but he was too quick and the pan slammed into the bundle of knives and sent it hurtling from her hand. The bundle burst apart as it hit the wall behind her and the knives spilled out and crashed to the floor.
Wilson swished the pan from side to side. Lightning flashed again. Kirsty braced herself for the crack of thunder but it never came.
Kirsty stepped back, her shoe crunching on one of the knives. ‘It’s going to be all right, Kirsty,’ said Wilson.
He moved to the side, out of the beam of the flashlight, and Kirsty’s heat pounded as she tried to keep the light on him. ‘Not scared of the dark, are you, Kirsty?’ said Wilson.
Kirsty bent down, grabbed one of the knives with her left hand and straightened up, holding it out in front of her. ‘Don’t come near me,’ she said.
‘Now that just looks awkward,’ said Wilson. “You’re not a leftie. You’d be so much better off with the knife in your right.’
‘Stop talking to me,’ said Kirsty. She waved the knife in front of her. He was right. The knife felt wrong in her left hand.
He took a step towards her and she shuffled back, her left heel scraping against another knife.
“You should swap them around,’ said Wilson. ‘Have the knife in your right hand, the flashlight in your left. Trust me, you’ll do more damage if I try to do this.’ He lunged forward, making a grab for her left hand but she jerked away and lashed out with the knife. He jumped back, grinning. ‘See, if you’d had the knife in your right hand you’d have got me then.’
‘I just want to go home,’ said Kirsty, her voice trembling.
“But you’ve only just got here, honey,’ said Wilson. He jerked a thumb towards the main cabin. ‘How about a quickie, just for old times sake.’
‘Please, just let me go home.’
‘Honey, will you take a look at yourself. You’re the one with the knife. You’re the one who broke in. Who’s the one being threatened here?’ He stepped to the left, out of the beam of the flashlight, and Kirsty swung it around to keep the light on him.
He lashed out with the pan and it smacked against the knife. Kirsty cried out in pain as it went spinning across the cabin.
Lightning flashed and as it did she saw him with the pan raised high. As the cabin went dark again he brought the pan crashing down on the flashlight. The impact almost wrenched her arm from its socket but she managed to keep hold of the flashlight as the glass smashed and the light went out. She threw the broken flashlight towards where she thought Wilson was standing but when it hit the wall of the cabin she knew that she had missed.
She dropped down onto her hands and knees and groped around in the dark, trying to find one of the knives.
Lightning flashed and she saw Wilson standing in front of her, a manic grin on his face. The pan had gone and its place was a bread knife with a serrated edge. Just as Kirsty screamed, the cabin was plunged into darkness again. She scuttled backwards on all fours, her breath coming in ragged gasps.
‘Kirsty, it’s all right,’ whispered Wilson. “Just go with the flow. It’ll soon be over.’
She sat back on her heels and held up her hands . She was shaking uncontrollably. Something flashed across her right palm and then she felt the pain and realised that he’d slashed her with the knife. She shuffled backwards, hyperventilating.
‘Don’t fight it, honey,” he said. ‘It’ll be so much easier if you just let it happen.’
Kristy could feel blood trickling down her palms and the cut flesh was stinging so hard that her eyes were watering.
Lighting flashed again and she saw Wilson crouched in front of her, an evil grin on his face. He lashed out with the knife and Kirsty threw up her hands just as the cabin went dark again. The blade slashed across the fingers of her left hand. Again there was just a stinging sensation and she bit down on her lower lip, fighting the urge to scream.
Wilson laughed manically and she felt the knife bite into her left shoulder, ripping through her shirt and slicing through the skin. This time she screamed and flailed out her hands. Her left hand touched something and she grabbed for it. It was the blade of the knife, she realised, and as her fingers tightened on it. Wilson pulled the knife back and the serrated blade tore through her hand.
She fell back, screaming, then rolled onto her front and began to crawl away from him on her hands and knees. Her fingers scrabbled over the wooden floor and she gasped as she felt the handle of a knife brush against the little finger of her right hand. She grabbed it and gently reached out with her left hand to touch the blade. It was about six inches long. The blade felt wet and she shivered as she realised it was because it was covered in blood from the cuts on her hands.
‘Ready or not, here I come,” whispered Wilson in the darkness.
Kirsty held her breath and turned her head slowly from side to side, listening intently. She heard a slight scraping sound, his shoe scraping across the deck, maybe. And she could him breathing, slowly and evenly. She turned the knife around in her hand so that she was grasping the handle in her fist, the blade pointing down. She kicked off both her shoes.
She heard another scrape. He was moving towards her. She sat back on her heels and held her left hand out, fingers splayed, still holding her breath. Then lighting flashed again and she saw him standing over her, the knife raised high. Kirsty grunted and slammed the knife down and buried it in Wilson’s left foot. Wilson screamed in pain as the cabin went dark again.
Kirsty jumped to her feet and pushed out with both hands. She connected with his chest and she kept pushing and felt him fall backwards. She screamed as loud as she could and heard him fall to the floor. She stepped on his chest but stumbled as he rolled over and she fell against the cabin wall. The boat rocked and she pushed herself off the wall and she rushed towards the hatch.
She heard Wilson grunt and then there was another flash of lightning but she didn’t turn around. He still had the knife and she wasn’t sure how much damage she’d done to his foot.
‘Kirsty, don’t leave angry!’ shouted Wilson. He started to laugh as her fingers scrabbled at the hatch and pulled it back. She felt a nail break as she pushed it back as far as it would go. ‘Kirsty!’ shouted Wilson, but she forced herself not to look around.
She scrambled up the stairs and screamed as she felt the knife tear across her back. She lashed out with her left leg, kicking backwards, and her foot connected with something and she heard him fall back and hit the floor.
She was exhausted but the adrenaline coursing through her bloodstream kept her going and she fell onto the deck and crawled along it. The blood from her wounds was mixing with the rain as she scrambled along on all fours. She threw herself off the boat and onto the pier, pushed herself up and started to run, her bare feet slapping against the wooden slats like gunshots.