Friday, July 22, 2011

THE LONELY MILE excerpt - Chapter One

To celebrate the release of my brand-spanking-new thriller, THE LONELY MILE, and in a bold-faced effort to whet your appetite for my work, I will be posting the first seven chapters here, one a day over the next seven days. This is the book bestselling author Scott Nicholson calls "a taut crime drama full of twists and conspiracy," and critically acclaimed, multi-genre-talented author Dave Zeltserman says "will carry readers along..."

Enjoy, and if you like what you read, please consider going to Amazon or Barnes and Noble for the full download...thanks!

Chapter 1

May 1

Amanda Lawton sagged sideways, groggy and disoriented, her blonde hair hanging in sweaty strings in front of her eyes. The heavy duct tape attaching her arms and legs to the wooden chair was all that kept her from falling to the cold, cement floor. She shot a pleading look at her captor, trying to focus on him through the disorienting effects of fatigue, hunger, and the drugs he’d forced on her. The thin man swam in and out of focus, moving around in her field of vision like a jittery Casper, although he was not a ghost, and he certainly wasn’t friendly.

This new room he’d moved her to—she thought it might be one of those aluminum-sided rental storage places—yawed and buckled in her watery eyesight. This must be what it feels like to be adrift on a small boat in heavy seas. Her stomach lurched. She thought she might puke. Please don’t let him gag me.

Her captor wrapped a final strip of the reinforced tape around each of her legs until they were completely immobile, then stepped back to admire his handiwork. Amanda knew this was her chance, probably her last chance, to beg for her life and her freedom. Maybe she could play on his sympathies, if he had any, and his humanity—if he was actually human—to plead with him to let her go.

She sat silently, though, trying to focus her gaze on him and failing, attempting to sit up in her chair and failing at that, too. What could she possibly say to him that she hadn’t already said? What pleas could she try? What promises could she make? Over the past week, the nightmarish seven days that had seemed like an eternity, Amanda had begged and reasoned, threatened and cried.

Nothing had worked. Nothing had made a bit of difference. He’d handcuffed her to a filthy little bed in the damp, nasty basement of his crumbling house, taking her when he wanted her in all sorts of different ways, feeding her when he felt like it, making her beg for the bathroom, in general, treating her like an animal or a piece of garbage while lovingly whispering words in her ear that were totally inconsistent with his treatment of her.

Amanda was in despair. Why had she let him grab her and throw her into his truck? How could she have been so careless? She would never again see her home. She would never again see her boyfriend or her parents or her college roommates. She would never hang out at the pizzeria in her tiny hometown, listening to music on the old-fashioned jukebox and teasing the local boys by wearing tight jeans and tank tops. She would simply disappear.

I guess I already have.

Amanda Lawton began to cry. She hadn’t thought it possible, she thought she had exhausted her tears at least three days ago. She had no words left to plead with her captor, but the tears came of their own accord. She cherished the tears. The tears meant that, somewhere deep inside the terrified shell of her former self, there was a sliver of hope, a dream that she might still escape the fate laid out for her by this awful man.

She was wrong.

Her captor stood and watched her cry, impassive and unmoved. He raised his arm slowly and pointed to one side of the tiny enclosure. Amanda tried to follow his gesture, which required intense concentration thanks to the cocktail of drugs she had been forced to take before he brought her to this new prison. “See the tiles on these walls?” he asked.

Amanda shook her head, trying to clear it. Why would he think she cared about the walls?

“Do you see them?” he repeated, the annoyance clear in his tone.

Amanda nodded, stifling a sob, still confused. “Yes, I see the tiles on the wall.”

“Good. These are professional-grade acoustical tiles, very expensive and very effective at accomplishing their purpose. And do you know what that purpose might be?”

Amanda shook her head again, confused and disoriented, but not so confused that she couldn’t tell he was playing with her, taunting her. Somehow this meaningless little humiliation hurt worse than all the indignities he had forced on her over the past week. It was the last straw.

She closed her eyes and sniffled as the tears came harder. She knew the man well enough by now to know this would only infuriate him, but she couldn’t help it. Of course, she was right.

“Answer me!” he shouted. “What is the purpose of these incredibly expensive tiles?”

“I don’t know.” Amanda sobbed, not wanting to die but wishing that, if his plan was to kill her, he would just hurry up and do it already.

“Thank you,” the man said with exaggerated politeness. “Now, was that so hard?” The swiftness of his mood changes was unpredictable and frightening. “Since you’re now showing an interest, I’ll tell you. Those professional-grade acoustical tiles are so expensive because they are extremely effective at muffling noise and preventing it from leaving this room. Radio stations and music studios use them to preserve the integrity of the recording and broadcasting process, and the people I deal with use them to preserve the integrity of their operation, which, in this case, means not allowing anyone outside of this room know that you are here inside it.

“Now, in case you’re wondering, and undoubtedly you are, this little “office,” as I like to call it, is located in an out-of-the-way area surprisingly free of traffic. Not many people come here at all, either by car or on foot. But in the event someone does pass by while you’re here, you can scream all you want at the loudest volume you can manage, and all you will achieve for your effort will be a set of strained vocal cords.

“My point, sweetheart, in case you are so addled by my drugs you need me to explain it, is that, even though I will be leaving soon, and I’m not sure how exactly long you’ll be here, it will do you no good to call for help. It would be a pointless waste of effort and would only serve to tire you out for no good reason. There is a bright side, however. I know you fear for your life, but you needn’t. My home was merely a waypoint for you, and your stay, as pleasant as it was for both of us, represented no more than a temporary interlude for you before continuing your journey to your new, permanent home.”

Amanda shook her head. “Permanent home?”

“That’s right. I’m not exactly sure where you’re going. It might be the frozen wastelands of Russia or the deserts of the Middle East. It all depends upon who my contacts are currently negotiating with, but I can tell you it won’t be here in the United States, or even on the North American continent. That would be too risky for all involved. Do you understand?”

Amanda nodded. She understood. She wished she didn’t, but she did. She tried again to raise her sagging body and sit upright in the chair. It wasn’t easy, with all four limbs duct-taped to a big, wooden monstrosity that looked like an electric chair—not to mention with the drugs coursing through her body. She strained and worked and eventually managed it, and she felt marginally more comfortable. But the tiny enclosure with no windows felt like an oven.

Her stomach lurched again. Sweat streamed down Amanda’s forehead and into her eyes, stinging them and mixing with her tears, and her vision jumped and blurred. She vaguely registered her scraggly captor turning and walking toward the door.

At least it looked as though there would be no gag stuffed into her mouth—why bother if nobody could hear her scream anyway? When he reached the door and swung it open, taking one last long look back at her, she threw up all over the floor.

Her captor shook his head in silent rebuke and walked out the door into the bright May sunshine. It slanted in through the open door for just a moment like an unfulfilled promise, and Amanda wondered if she would ever see the sun again. He closed and locked the door. She waited to hear the sound of his rattletrap truck starting up, of him driving away, but she didn’t hear a thing. Of course, the incredibly expensive acoustical soundproofing tiles.

She counted to one hundred in her head, nice and slow, and when she was sure he must be gone, she tested his theory about the tiles. Amanda Lawton screamed.

And screamed.

And screamed.

And he must have been right. Because nobody came.


Chapter Two to follow tomorrow...

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Julia Madeleine said...

Wow, Allan that was good and creepy. Got a thin layer of ice over my coffee now. :)

Al Leverone said...

Thanks for checking it out, Julia! Look at the bright side - it's so damned hot, iced coffee might be refreshing!

By the way, I can't wait to read your upcoming DRUNK ON THE MOON comes out soon, yes?

Julia Madeleine said...

You're right about that iced coffee, Allan. It's been so hot you could bake cookies on the hood of your car.

I think the Drunk On The Moon story is out this weekend. And yours is next! Exciting isn't it?

Al Leverone said...

It's really exciting. I read Paul's story when it came out in Dark Valentine and I remember thinking how dark and moody the whole setting was. It reminded me of a Tim Burton movie. When I saw that he was going to run a serial and take installments from other authors, I jumped on that bad boy as quickly as I could...