Yes! Another giveaway! This one’s different from the Goodread’s one since I’ll be giving away signed paperbacks. I’ll be personalizing them and sending them to the winners. All by myself. My mother should be proud.
And now, because I’m cool like that, here’s the first chapter:
I’m sitting behind the counter ready to crack the cash register open and call it a night when the bookstore’s door opens, making the wind chime sing, and in comes this guy.
So fucking annoying, these customers that come in right before closing time.
I greet him, he doesn’t reply.
Make it quick, you dumbass.
But no, of course not. He strides leisurely through the bookshelves, taking his time.
“Looking for anything in particular?” I give a fake smile.
I look at my watch and my stomach rumbles. That salad I had as a late lunch disappeared the moment it hit my trachea. Damn those things; it’s like eating water.
Push up my glasses, hit the bridge of my nose.
“We’re closing in five,” I shoot his way. Better get on with it, dude, or I’ll kick you out.
He gives me a slight nod and goes on browsing.
Damn you. There’s some leftover lasagna in my fridge, calling my name.
One look at him and I can tell he’s searching, not just browsing like most people do. He knows what he’s looking for. If only he’d tell me, I could help. He’s old. Well, not too old if you ask my mother, passing fifty maybe. The kind that still comes here, a select member of the small group of people that still read print.
He plucks two books from different shelves and brings them to me, pays for them, and without a word, leaves.
I open the cash register and give a quick glance inside. It’s not hard to count fifty bucks total. Put them in my pocket, get my purse, coat, scarf, and get the hell out of there before I collapse.
Lights off, lock the door, pull the gate.
“Give me the money, bitch!”
“What the fuck?!”
A punk, a blade, a set of bloodshot eyes. “Give me the money!”
“What money?! Dude! This is a fucking bookstore. We don’t make money, we lose money.”
He goes for my purse, but I dodge him. “Shut up, bitch, and give me the fucking money!” A swipe of the blade in the air.
“Come on, man! I already told you I’ve got nothing! Bookstore equals bankrupt, you idiot. Take your anger somewhere else. Channel it somehow.” I manage to close the padlock by hitting it with the heel of my hand and it goes clunk.
“What the fuck?”
“I mean, you’re angry. Aren’t you? You’re angry at society, humanity, yourself, maybe even your family. Why are you doing this? Did you ever dream of ending up like this? Mugging people on the street?”
His eyes flick from right to left.
“I mean it, dude. Get a grip. There’s a place two blocks from here where you can crash, get a shower, have a hot meal. You know, help you get your shit together. This adrenaline rush isn’t worth it, nor is shooting stuff up your veins.”
“Fuck you.” He pounces, the blade almost reaching my neck.
I duck away from him and all I hear is a swooshing sound. The punk’s flying, fucking flying two or three feet above the ground and hitting the wall with an earth-shattering crash.
What. The. Fuck.
I look down at my hands, my legs. I didn’t do shit.
There’s someone wheezing behind me and when I turn, I see him. It’s the old dude, the customer. His bag with the books is lying on the ground and he’s doubled over, a hand against the wall.
“Sir? Are you okay?”
He waves a hand at me, dismissing me.
The vagabond is sprawled against the wall and there’s blood on it.
“Sir. Please, let me help you.”
I try to reach the man who’s trying to catch his breath as if he’d run a marathon, but he pushes me away.
“What did you do? Who are you?”
He sends me a menacing glance and I know I should leave it alone, but I think he needs my help.
I grab his bag and go for his arm. He can hardly protest through what seems to be an asthma attack.
“Let me take you home, sir.”
He’s tall and heavy and pushes me away with every step, but we make it to my car and I’m able to shove him inside.
I slide into the driver’s seat and pause.
“What the fuck happened back there?”
His breathing slows down yet he doesn’t look at me. He won’t even send me another glare.
He blurts his address and we’re off. In silence. I won’t talk if he won’t talk.
And fuck me if I’m mute, but when we reach our destination, I knew it rang a bell. It’s some exclusive residential area with manor after manor stretching out on a wider than normal street.
The dude’s loaded. Not that you’d tell from his clothes, maybe a bit from his face but definitely not his clothes.
Once we reach the number, he tries to bolt.
“Whoa. Let me unlock it first!”
I push the button and the thing clicks, his sign to stagger out and shut the door with a bang.
I jump out, shout at his back, “A thanks won’t fucking kill you!”
He stops short of opening the gate, turns on his heel and strides back.
I’m at my door, across from him, holding onto the car in case the guy goes berserk.
He stops on the other side, sneers at me over the car’s roof.
“You didn’t see anything,” he snarls.
“Tonight. The thief.”
“Yeah, about that…”
He points a threatening finger at me. “Not. A. Word.”
Then it dawns on me. Oh my god does it dawn. The junkie flew through the air.
I narrow my eyes even though I’m trembling. “It’s you.”
There’s murder in his eyes. “I said: not a word!”
“But you’re dead.”
“And that’s how I’d like to remain. Now go before I change my mind.”
Oooookay. I’ve had enough creepy for one night.
I open my door and slide in. He rushes into the house and disappears.
I can’t make myself start the car. I can’t put the key in the ignition; it slips. This dude. This guy. This man.
It can’t be.
Some stupid kind of determination gets a hold of me. The kind that drives people to walk into a dark room to check on a weird noise and then the boogeyman gets them.
He’s going to murder me, I know.
I open the car door as slow as I can, careful not to make a sound, step out, gulp some air.
What the fuck am I doing? Getting myself killed, maybe?
A look at the house lit only by the light from the street lamps filtered through the many trees that surround it. It’s old, dilapidated, and the ivy that covers the walls isn’t just for the fancy effect it gives. The thing’s overgrown.
Then I see it – a plaque next to the gate through which he entered, covered by the ivy and mush. I pull my coat sleeve to cover my hand, to uncover the thing, to discover what lies underneath.
Get back in the car and get the fuck out of there.
I’ve either just hit jackpot or written my own death sentence.