Save the dates!

These last 9 days have been a roller coaster ride for me and I do love roller coasters, so I don’t mean it in a bad way. Ups, downs, but mostly ups since launching The Last Superhero on December 18 after a successful (at least to me) pre-order campaign.

I had debated whether or not to put The Last Superhero on pre-order since the moment I knew I was publishing it on December. KDP’s pre-order feature had been up and running for some time and the hive mind had a lot of information about it, especially this thread over at Kboards. I went back and forth with the idea, presented it to my editor, and we both came to the conclusion that talking publicly about a book that technically doesn’t exist yet doesn’t bode well with everyone. It’s mind bogging how quick people forget about stuff in this information-overloaded era and having a pre-0rder link while we worked on the last round of edits sounded like the best way to go; a place where we could direct people who showed interest about the book to and not have to rely on praying they didn’t forget how excited they were about it when they first heard the news. Also, it helped make it a bit more real for us… and a lot more nerve wracking.

I wrote blog posts. I ran an ARC copies Goodreads giveaway and a Rafflecopter one for signed copies. I made a Facebook event for the launch. I tweeted and FBed the hell out of it.

I’m not one of those authors with huge sales numbers so, for me, The Last Superhero has done reasonably well (27 pre-orders and a couple of sales trickling in daily). However, I know that with some more promo it can do a lot better.

In comes the Kindle Countdown Deal.

The Last Superhero is enrolled in KDP Select for the moment because I want to take advantage of both the countdown deals and the dreaded Kindle Unlimited. I don’t plan to keep it in Select forever so I’ll try to use it to my advantage while it’s there.

December 28th will be my 10th wedding anniversary. Yes, we’ve survived ten years together! And I thought it a great time to run a two day promo. I could go on about how the main characters resonate with my life but I already did that here. Needless to say, Giana and Steven, as well as Scarlett and Armand from my Caregiver Series, are May December romances, just like Hubby and I. Although, Steven’s 102, which could sound a bit hardcore but hey, he’s a superhero and they age slower so, yeah, age is only a number.

You’re over a hundred years old?” And you’re not a vampire!

Yes.”

Cool.”

Cool?”

Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting. And, well, you look better than most of the hundred-year-olds I’ve met.” And you definitely don’t shag like a hundred-year-old either.

That makes him laugh, lightens the mood, makes the flame on the candle sway with his wine-infused breath.

– Excerpt from Chapter 11

*ahem* The deal?

Oh, yeah, that.

The Last Superhero will be $0.99 on Dec 28, it’ll then go up to $1.99 on Dec 29 before settling back to its original price of $2.99 on Dec 30. This will only be happening on Amazon’s .com site. I’m trying to make it happen on the UK one too but I had to do a price change for that and I don’t know if it’ll be set for tomorrow.

Sites/services I’ve set promos with:

1. eReader Utopia

2. Awesome Gang

3. Just Kindle Books

4. Bargain Booksy

5. Bknights

1 and 4 I’ve used before while 2, 3, and 5 are new to me. I’ve found these sites through web searches, Kboards, and Lindsay Buroker’s awesome blog. I’m still trying to figure all this out since marketing isn’t my forte but I’m confident I’m on the right track, even if it’s only to give the book a bit of a ranking boost.

Another fantastic service I’ll be using is Booktastik, where TLS will be featured as a New Release on January 2nd.

There are other places I’d love to be able to feature the book (i.e. BookSends) but alas, it doesn’t have enough reviews to pass their submission requirements. Another one I want to try is BookBub but that’ll have to wait until the budget allows it (that if they don’t reject TLS once I can submit). This is why reviews are so important to authors. It’s not only a thing of validation, it’s a necessary evil for marketing and therefore, sales, and therefore, surviving as a scribbler in this big bad world.

Save the dates!

December 28 – The Last Superhero will be $0.99

December 29 – The Last Superhero will be $1.99

 

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Merry Christmas

gift-548286_1280Merry Christmas to you all!!

This Christmas has been a wonderful one thanks to all of you who’ve been here supporting me through this crazy book launch event. It’s been an awesome experience, one I’m sure I’ll never forget.

To all of you who’ve read The Last Superhero or are planning to do so soon, there’s a short story I wrote not so long ago while experimenting with what I call a “looser and almost lyrical kind of writing,” the same one I use in The Last Superhero. That story is a noir romance titled At the Corner of Mars and Neptune and it’ll be free today and tomorrow (12/25 – 12/26) over at Amazon.com as a token of my appreciation for all of you.

Download from Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CQI093C

Have a joyful and safe holiday! Sending you all warm Caribbean hugs! 😉

The Last Superhero signed copies giveaway winners!

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It’s December 22 and two people have won signed copies of The Last Superhero! Yay!

So, drum roll please!

Rafflecopter Winners(Rafflecopter won’t let me embed the widget on my wordpress.com blog so I had to do a screencap. You can check the widget here.)

Poiboy and Tenzin, I’ll be emailing you shortly for details. 🙂

Everybody else: thanks for participating and don’t feel bummed if you didn’t win, I promise there will be more surprises coming in the next few months!

Woot!

The Last Superhero Launch Day!

3D-Book-PromoGrab your drink of choice because this is launch day!!

I have guests coming over tonight so I won’t be able to mingle in cyberspace for long but still wanted to leave a note about the launch because it’s been better than I expected. Setting the book for pre-order was a breeze thanks to all the cyberknowledge available to date about the process, however, it was still nerve-wracking! I’ve never been this nervous about a book launch — fact that puzzles Hubby to no end. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve done so much marketing for it or that it’s a story that’s lived with me for longer than the others and having it go public is actually a big thing for me. Whatever it is, I’m glad its turned out to be such a fun ride and to feel the enormous support given by family and friends.

So, for you, the acknowledgements of the book:

For everyone who believed in Steven from the get-go

and for those who will believe in him from now on.

For those who cheered for this story since its conception,

and for the one who stomped his foot and told me to stop.

For now I know better, for now life has taught me so much.

For now I feel I’ve finally given Steven and Giana

what they always hoped for.

THANK YOU!!

❤ ❤ ❤

If you still don’t have your copy you can order from Amazon, buy signed copies, or enter a giveaway!

The Last Superhero – Chapter 3 and Launch!

Dontbreakhisheart-Quote

My heart was in Cruz’s expert grip throughout. Love, loneliness, grief, salvation, finely wrought drama and no-holds-barred fantasy… This book has it all.

– Walter Conley, screenwriter of Badderlands

Less than 36 hours to go for the book launch and I’m ecstatic, to say the least. Pre-orders are pouring in and the support from friends and family has been amazing. That doesn’t mean the work is over. Far from that, we’re just getting started!

If you haven’t pre-ordered yet, what are you waiting for?

My editor, Stacia Rogan, was nice enough to write a post about editing this book. A book we both thought she’d hate since she’s a ‘self-proclaimed hardcore non-reader of science fiction’. I was glad I didn’t have to stab her! 😀

Now, have chapter 3!

3

It’s one of those days when you don’t want to see anyone, but you have to because you have to go to work and run errands and talk to people.

Top it off with the fact that I was running late and you can see the picture.

Daphne had opened the shop.

That bookstore.

The only constant in my life, having been established by my mother before I was born, and the one thing that I was now carrying like dead weight wherever I’d go.

Landlord’s being an asshole again,” I say once I walk in, my eyes on the two coffees I’m carrying, my mind replaying that scene between Mr. Brownstone and me when he knocked on my door to remind me my rent was late, yet again. “He won’t leave me alone.”

Giana?”

I got you coffee.”

There’s someone here to see you.”

I look up and see him. Steven.

I don’t need this. I really don’t need this.

Hi,” he says all shy and charming and innocent like.

I can swear he looks even younger than before.

I give Daphne her coffee and offer Steven mine. “I can get another one.”

No, thank you. I already had my dose.” A smile.

Daphne scurries away and I’m left with Mr. Stalker.

Whatever. “Join me in my office?”

He steps aside for me to cross the store and into the back room we call the office. It’s more of a closet or a cupboard than an office, but it works.

He sits on the red armchair facing the gray desk inside the green walls. My mother has something for colors.

What brings you here today, Mr. Wal- Dennis?” I stutter, my hands busy unwrapping my scarf.

Are you okay?”

Don’t answer my question with another question. That’s rude.

Yes.” No. I’m not. Nobody cares. London Bridge falls every fucking day.

Problems with the landlord?”

I scowl. “He’s a moody old perv.”

What?!” He’s outraged.

Oh no, no, don’t go thinking… It’s just that he’s… He’s always wearing these old, stained clothes and he sputters when he talks, mostly when he’s angry. The spit sometimes pools in the edge of his lips…” I almost dry heave at that.

And I’m behind on my rent and he’s kicking me out, but I’m not saying that to his face.

He tilts his head to one side. “Would you like to take a stroll with me? Take your mind off it a bit?”

I sip from my coffee. I just got here and shouldn’t leave. At least not with him.

Then he’s looking at me, pleading. This isn’t so much for me as it is for him and I’ll be damned if I ain’t got a thing for pleading souls.

I wrap the scarf around my neck again and this time he leads the way out of the store.

Daphne sends me a questioning look that I respond to with a mouthed ‘I’ll be back.’

There’s a moment of hesitation when Steven hits the sidewalk. He’s unsure, thinking about it twice.

Would the park be okay?” he asks.

The park would be fine,” I say.

And we’re off.

He walks with purpose, as if not to be distracted. I fight to keep up with him.

Where is he taking me?

Has he changed his mind and is going to murder me?

There’s a lake in the park and heaven knows I never learned how to swim.

I’m not going to hurt you,” he says once we reach the entrance.

I open my mouth to protest. I know he’s not a bad person.

I know you’re not a bad person.”

His eyes change and I see him bite the inside of his cheek as we walk into the park, every step taking us farther into that area where the trees grow thicker and the crowd thinner.

Fewer witnesses.

Dear Mom, I’m only acting on what you told me so many years ago. Don’t take it out on me if this fails.

What are you thinking that is making you frown so hard?”

You wouldn’t believe it.”

Try me.”

We reach the lake and I’m glad to see there are people on the other side. It’s a large lake, but a scream would make it to them. I think.

My coffee secured in my hand, I tell him something I’d never told anyone.

My mother, she told me about you.”

Did she?”

Yeah. When I was little.” Sip from the coffee and yuck, it’s cold already. Wipe my mouth with the sleeve of my coat. “You saved her once from falling off a cliff.”

He raises his eyebrows and it’s clear he can’t remember. It must be awfully hard to remember so many people, so many faces.

She told me you were a good man. Misunderstood, but a good man nonetheless.”

His eyes are on his shoes, his hands buried in his pockets.

Misunderstood,” he whispers. “Maybe. But I’m not a good man, I’m not a good person.”

You saved me from getting mugged, that gives you some good-guy points in my book.”

For the first time, I hear him scoff. “Good-guy points. That’s new. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened to you were I not there. It’s not easy to talk your way out of a robbery, much less when it’s a junkie.”

I’ve been there before and managed to convince a couple of them to desist.” I turn my eyes to him and, oh, he’s amused. “I wanted to be a psychologist.”

Wanted?”

Yes. Wanted. Couldn’t afford it.”

Blergh. I feel like shit every time this subject comes up.

He doesn’t say anything.

Anyway. Thank you for being there that night.”

I start back for the trees when he touches my shoulder and I’m compelled to turn around and face him again.

His hand travels upwards, to the side of my face.

I see him so clearly all of a sudden. He’s smiling and says, “Don’t go.”

How can I not stay if he’s looking at me that way? Fuck. Can’t deny the fact that his features are more than agreeable, I’d even say he’s quite handsome.

Or is it the light? It’s such a beautiful day.

I like to come here.” He’s contemplating the lake, some deep, sad longing in his eyes. “It’s one of those places that makes me feel better, lighter, as if the world were still a nice place to live in.”

I stand beside him and, dammit, it feels so nice.

How long have you been hiding?”

Twenty-eight years.”

That’s a long time.”

It is.”

Ever feel lonely?”

All the time.”

I bet.”

I bet you don’t know about that.”

Now it’s my turn to scoff. “Watch out, mister. There are many of us lone wolves roaming around.”

How come?”

How come what?”

You’re… young.”

Is that a compliment?” He stares a bit too intently at me. “I like to think I still haven’t hit my prime.”

Hmm.”

What’s made you come out of the cave after so long?”

He ponders, brushes the grass with the sole of his shoe. So pretty, so green. “It was time I did.”

Good enough.

And when was that?”

A month and a half ago. Still trying to get used to it.”

Do you still use your powers? Apart from saving damsels from getting mugged?”

That was the first time I used them in a long time, hence the huffing and puffing afterward. It takes a lot of strength to do what I do.”

I thought it was an asthma attack. My mother gets them every now and then.”

Where is she? Your mother?”

In Spain visiting my father and, in the meantime, the Madrid Book Fair.”

I sip from the coffee and, as I swallow it, I let its warmth envelop my insides.

Oh,” he says.

You know, about that night with the thief, I’m of the thought that people meet for a reason, that nothing’s random.”

You believe us two meeting wasn’t a random thing?”

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.”

Good.” He’s facing me now, a smile on his face, a sparkle in his eyes. “I’d like to think that too.”

Why are you being so charming all of a sudden?”

Because you need a friend.” He takes a breath, filling his lungs with the oh so pure air around us. “Maybe we can have that coffee tomorrow?”

Sure. I always get mine from that coffee shop around the corner from the bookshop.”

Perfect. I’ll see you there around eight?”

Yeah.”

Another smile and is that my heart fluttering?

What I do feel all of a sudden is my feet hit the ground and I have to step back to keep my balance.

Steven’s hand is retreating from in front of my eyes, curling his fingers away from my forehead.

What the fuck?!”

He’s walking away.

Hey!” I feel the coffee in my hand and it’s cold as cold can be and the air doesn’t smell as pure as it used to.

I search for him, but he’s disappeared into the trees.

Goddammit!” I cry, frustrated.

Stupid me forgot his most controversial superpower: the ability to project fantasies into people’s minds.

You bastard!”

Hurling my already stale coffee only contributes to my anger as I encounter a ‘Do Not Litter’ sign that makes me squat to pick it up and throw it in the trash before exiting the park, swearing there’s smoke coming out of my ears as I go.

###

Signed copies are still available here!

You can win 1 of 2 signed copies through this Rafflecopter giveaway.

Or pre-order it from Amazon and have it downloaded to your Kindle as soon as it’s published.

The Last Superhero – Chapter 2, signed copies for sale, and giveaways reminder

This week has been pretty awesome. And it’s only Tuesday.

First of all, author friend Stacey Cochran sent me a blurb for The Last Superhero and it’s pretty mind blowing:

“Cruz’s voice is the most authentic to emerge from the Caribbean in the digital age. Edgy, smart, tough, she writes with inspired confidence.”

– Stacey Cochran, author of EDDIE & SUNNY.

And no, I didn’t put a gun to his head or anything! I couldn’t speak for a while after he wrote to me and even when I’ve read it and reread it a couple of times I still can’t believe he’s talking about me. 😀

Then, something wonderful happened this morning. The print proof of The Last Superhero arrived in the mail!

IMG_20141209_125326

It’s perfect!!!

I love it. I love everything about it and I will sleep with it hugged to my chest tonight.

And I know I have lots of friends and family wanting to do that too so I’m selling autographed copies. Yay!

Click here if you’d like to buy one and I will love you forever!

Also, remember I’ve got two giveaways going on: 2 ARCs over at Goodreads and 2 signed copies through Rafflecopter.

Want to save tress? You can pre-order it from Amazon and have it downloaded to your Kindle as soon as it’s published.

If I keep smiling like this my face will hurt. So here I give you Chapter 2…

2

It’s been a week since the incident and I’m chatting with Daphne – my right-hand, store clerk, and all around guardian angel who has worked here for free for far longer than I care to admit – about hair colors. She’s punk and has purple and white streaks in her hair and keeps trying to convince me about dyeing mine any color I choose from the rainbow.

I’m trying to run a bookstore,” I reply.

Well, it’s not my bookstore, it’s my mother’s, but I’m the one who runs it for her thanks to people like Daphne who believe the written word isn’t dead.

Anyway, that’s another story.

Blue would look perfect on you,” she says, eyeing the customer that’s just walked in. “It might help us attract a younger crowd and less of those.” She nods the customer’s way.

I give a jump.

Oh fuck.”

What?” Daphne frowns. She doesn’t know.

She doesn’t know the old dude’s back and he’s here to kill me.

He glides through the bookshelves, like some cat.

Shit.

I’ll be outside,” I say, rush through the back door.

He’s on my tail and I hear Daphne trying to stop him.

I just want to talk,” he says once we’ve both made it outside, closing the door on poor Daphne.

It’s okay, Daph, I’ve got it!” I cry, praying it makes it through the door seams and to her. Address him, “You don’t want her calling the police.”

He opens the door again and there’s Daphne holding her phone to her face.

It’s okay,” I tell her, my arms crossed over my chest to hide my trembling. “He’s a friend of Mom’s.”

Oh,” Daphne lowers her phone.

I’ll be back in ten.”

She shuts the door.

This is it. This is where I die. Next to the dumpster. So classy.

Please make it quick.” My voice quivers, breaks. “And don’t let Daphne see my dead body, she’s squeamish.”

What?!”

Look, I didn’t tell the police it was you, just some Good Samaritan that then ran off. The surveillance cameras haven’t worked for years, so there’s no evidence.” It’s difficult to speak, but I push through. At least let me explain myself before he kills me off.

His brows furrow, every time a little deeper.

The guy’s in the hospital. He has no family or anything so no one will miss him.” I can hear him breathing hard. “And I think you should know I’m an only child and this bookstore is my mother’s, so maybe you’d like to dump my body somewhere they can’t find me.”

What the fuck are you going on about?”

You’re here to kill me, aren’t you?”

I’m not.” He looks around, exasperated.

What are you here for then?”

He brings his hands to his head. “This is fucked up.”

No shit.”

I’m not here to kill you and it wasn’t my intention to injure that man.”

It’s not like you haven’t done it before.”

His stare is so intense, I step back and bump into the wall behind me.

What do you know about me?”

I feel my knees buckle and lean on the wall to remain vertical.

That your name is Steven Waldorf.”

What else?”

That…” Should I say it? He’s pressing me with those menacing hazel eyes… “You’re the last superhero to roam the Earth.”

His face falls for a second before he steps back, away from my quaking self.

I know too much and now he knows I know and he’ll do to me what they do to all the people who know too much.

I’m not here to kill you.”

I brave a glance at him and he’s standing next to the dumpster, his head down.

You’re not?”

No, I’m not. What made you think that?”

Apart from all the glaring and the sneering?” And the fact that I witnessed you almost murder someone?

He runs his fingers through his graying hair. “Look, I’m sorry I was rude to you.”

Are you even real?”

Of course I am.”

And you are Steven Waldorf.”

I go by Steven Dennis now.”

Oh.” A pause. “You’re supposed to be dead.”

Yes. And I would appreciate if you didn’t tell anyone that I am not.”

Okay.” Sure. Or you’ll kill me. I get it.

He’s about to say something, but it dies in his throat. His face’s softened and giving him a second look, he’s not that old or bad looking.

It takes a depraved mind like mine to think such a thing in a moment like this.

Something drives me to talk. Maybe it’s that same thing that made me get out of the car and read the plaque.

Step closer to the boogeyman so he can slash you straight.

Were you looking for something? Is there anything I can help you with?”

Now he softens further and there’s the ghost of a smile on his lips.

I came to buy more books.”

Okay. Follow me.”

Don’t touch him in case he’s startled and then kills you.

We walk back into the bookstore and I signal Daphne that all is okay. She gives Steven an ‘I’m watching you’ look that he doesn’t notice.

He’s got superpowers, yes, but not all of them. I think there’s a rule about that; you only get one or two, not more. He’s got telekinesis. It explains why the hobo flew through the air. He pushed him with his power.

We’re in the poetry section and I try to interest him in some crime novel that just came out.

Don’t read crime.”

Of course you don’t.

A long, elegant finger settles on a particular poetry compilation that happens to be one of my favorites and pulls it out.

The guy seems to know. “Great choice.”

Is it?”

One of my favorites.” I’m regarded with a quirked eyebrow and a satisfied nod. “I must ask…”

No questions.”

And here I was thinking he’d softened.

Why am I following him, I don’t know.

Well, maybe because he’s the last fucking superhero in the fucking Earth and, right now, I’m the only one who knows he’s still alive.

When I turn around, he’s staring at me.

Can you read my mind?”

That makes him burst out in laughter.

Not funny.” I give him an about face and his hand lands on my shoulder, startling me.

Sorry,” he says.

Daphne’s checking on us from a distance.

It’s okay.”

Got any naughty thoughts you don’t want me knowing about?”

Is that humor? Must be.

Maybe.”

That amuses him.

I’m taking this one but only because you said it was your favorite.” He hands me the book.

One of my favorites. I’ve got many.” I lead the way to the register, where Daphne’s sitting.

She’s quick to slide off the stool and run for cover.

Then I shall come back for the rest.”

Am I getting hit on by a man twice my age? From murder to flirting. This is new and unheard.

He’s smiling. It makes him look less menacing. Almost nice.

Apart from the murder thing.

He pays, I bag the book, give it to him.

What’s your name, by the way?”

Giana.”

It hits him, something, don’t know what, then says, “Beautiful.” And it’s as if it physically hurt him.

A slight bow and he’s out. Out the door but not my mind.

What did he want?” Daphne approaches me.

I don’t know,” is my reply and I have to shake it off. “I’m getting lunch.” Hit a button on the cash register and see there’s not enough.

I’ll get it.” She pats my shoulder and is off the same way Steven was seconds before.

I bend over and hit my forehead on the counter.

Fuck everything and everyone, dead, alive, or about to die.”

###

The Last Superhero – Chapter 1 and Signed Paperback Giveaway!

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.

Click here to find out how to enter the giveaway!

Or you can pre-order it from Amazon and have it downloaded to your Kindle as soon as it’s published.

And now, because I’m cool like that, here’s the first chapter:

1

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.

“No.”

Ugh.

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.

Asshole.

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.

Damn.

“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.

I wait.

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.

Oh fuck.

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.

“Excuse me?”

“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.

“Fuck!”

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.

Waldorf Manor.

Oh. Shit.

Get back in the car and get the fuck out of there.

I’ve either just hit jackpot or written my own death sentence.

###