In this sneak peak at Whisper Killer 3: Whisper for the Dead, we're introduced to a new character: The Whistler. He is a frenemy of Jack's — more enemy than friend — and may be called upon to help, but cannot be trusted.
Whisper for the Dead will be on sale at most book stores by the 11th or 12th (Wed) and all book stores by Friday the 14th of October, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google, and iBooks.
Below is the first chapter:
Something felt wrong. When Elias Smith entered the convenience store, he thought the man behind the register appeared too stiff. A woman stood near the counter with a panic-stretched face. Both refused to look at him. He didn’t get it. Shrugging it off, he moved into the third aisle and found the skin ointments. His son was stuck at home with poison ivy and needed calamine lotion.
The automatic doors swished aside. Two teenage boys breezed in and went straight for the cold drinks in the back. They were arguing about which movie to see tonight. They seemed at ease, but Elias still felt something was off. He looked back and forth from the counter to the lotions. He found the right salmon-colored jar and checked the price.
$10? Seriously? This junk was a buck when I was a kid.
The woman at the front started to tremble. She dropped one of the three items she had been carrying. When she knelt to pick it up, she stayed down on the floor and started to weep.
What the hell is her problem?
“Are you okay, ma’am?” he asked. He took a few steps toward the top of the aisle.
The oblivious teens rattled bottles of soft drinks in the back and now began arguing about whether they could get away with buying beer. There was one vote for no way and one for let’s try, what can it hurt? They can’t arrest us, can they? Elias was rooting for the let’s try boy. Live a little.
“You all right?” he asked the woman again.
She sobbed. He took another step closer, now eight feet away, but stopped when a second man popped up behind the counter next to the clerk. With long stringy hair held down by a frayed baseball cap, the man held a gun in his right hand, a fancy automatic, now pointed at the clerk’s head.
“This fuckin’ Grand Central Station or something?” the man asked. He was jittery; his bloodshot eyes darted around the store. “Why so many damned customers? I can’t wait no longer. Let’s get this over with. The money.” He waved his gun at the cash register. “Now, dude!”
Elias squeezed the glass calamine lotion bottle against his stomach. The two teens started for the register with two beers and a Coke and almost made it to the front before they saw the robbery in progress. They froze and looked at the clerk, the man with the gun, the woman on the floor. Finally, they looked at Elias. He waved them back and pointed toward the floor behind the aisle.
“Get down, guys. Hide.”
“You stay put!” the gunman shouted at them. “No one moves. Stay like fuckin’ stone statues until I get outta here. Stone, you hear me? Or you’ll get a bullet in the freakin’ fuckin’ head.”
The boys became statues exactly as ordered. Their eyes wide, they stared at the man and didn’t budge. They rejected Elias’ second plea to get down. One started breathing heavily as the robber waved his gun around and again ordered the clerk to get the register open.
“Calm down,” Elias said. “Everyone’s cool here. Take the money and go. We won’t try anything. Right, guys? We’re cool.”
“What are you, a cop?” the gunman asked.
“A science teacher.”
“Well, you sound like a cop, so shut the fuck up!”
Elias nodded and kept his mouth shut. At six-two and two hundred pounds, he could likely pummel the man if he could get close enough. Maybe knock the gun from his hands and wrestle him to the floor. But he was ten feet away and on the wrong side of the counter.
He has to come to this side to leave the store. Get closer to the front.
Elias stole half a step toward the top of the aisle. He felt the heavy bottle in his hand. Maybe he could throw it. No, it would never work. Best to let the man leave with the money. He glanced at the woman, still crouched on the floor. She looked old enough to be his mother. That angered him a little, and he took another step forward.
The clerk fumbled with the keys, opened the register, and pulled out a neat stack of bills. It looked like mostly ones and tens to Elias. The clerk stuffed them into a plastic Kelso’s Mini-Mart bag and started for the quarters. The gunman stopped him.
“Not the change, you idiot.”
“Sorry. Sorry, I…”
The clerk began fishing the quarters out of the bag.
“Leave it now, you moron!”
“Sorry,” the clerk repeated. He handed the bag of money to the gunman. A few quarters jingled inside. “Here. Take it.”
Elias reached into his pocket and grasped his key ring and set of five keys. He eased them out of his pocket and made a fist with the keys inside. If he could get a little closer, he might be able to take a swing.
Leave it, he told himself. You’ll get someone killed.
He couldn’t decide, but he wanted to be at the front just in case. He slid a step closer to the top of the aisle, now only five feet from the counter.
That was when the strange man came into the store. The leather-jacket man. He was big. Not quite as big as Elias, but more muscular and tougher looking. His perfectly round bald head gleamed under the lights. The man might have been in his forties but with creases in his face that belonged to a sixty-year-old. He’d spent too much time in the sun. He wore a permanent grimace on his face that said he didn’t like people, didn’t like to say hello and never liked to be bothered. He was the kind of guy Elias would avoid saying howdy to, and Elias said howdy to everyone.
The man barged into the store and went straight for aisle two, pain relievers. He took a bottle of aspirin off the shelf, in no way concerned by the robbery in progress.
“What the hell!” the gunman shrieked. “Are you blind, man? I got a gun. Stop shopping, stop moving and get to the back of the fucking store. Matter of fact, all of you get to the back of the store. Move! And hands up.”
The new customer looked up at the clerk, then at the other customers. Nothing about the scene seemed to bother him. He addressed the gunman.
“I just need some aspirin, buddy. Don’t mind me. I won’t get in the way of your… robbery. Or whatever this is.”
The odd bald man walked past the teens to reach the cold drinks at the rear of the store. He opened the aspirin bottle, popped two aspirin into his mouth and pulled a bottle of mineral water from the refrigerated drink shelf. He downed the water in a steady single gulp.
“What the fuck!” the gunman screamed. “Stop moving, asshole! This ain’t no joke.”
The bald leather-jacketed man regarded the gunman for a second, then ambled to the front of the store and placed the empty water bottle on the counter in front of the clerk. He shook the aspirin bottle in plain view, then stuffed it into his jacket. He slipped a money clip from his pocket, peeled off a ten and laid it on the counter.
“Keep the change,” he said.
The man turned to leave the store, but the robber shouted for him to stop. When his words were ignored, the robber fired his pistol once. The man’s body flew against the glass doors. A bullet hole appeared in his jacket at the shoulder. Blood trickled from it, staining the leather. The man caught his balance and felt for the bullet hole with his left hand. He whirled around and turned on the gunman. What was in the odd man’s eyes was neither fear nor fury. Elias thought it looked like pity. Maybe a little curiosity was in there, too.
“That’ll do it,” the leather-jacket man said.
What happened next, Elias had trouble describing when later questioned by the police. The bald man flew across the counter in a blink of an eye and slammed the gunman against the wall. Cartons of cigarettes spilled off shelves and tumbled around them. Then he grabbed the gunman by the neck and dragged him into the storage room. What followed was a scream and the sound of a shelf collapsing.
Elias immediately called the police while the clerk sobbed and ran out the door. The teens scurried outside with their beers. The old woman rose from the floor and leaned against the counter. She still held two of her items clutched against her bosom. That’s where she remained for thirty-six minutes until help arrived.
The police found the robber in the rear storage room with his head ripped off. It was lying in the corner a foot from his body. Blood and pieces of skin stained nearly every inch of the floor. It was assumed the odd bald man had escaped through the back door.
None of them ever saw him again.