Friday, January 25, 2013

Do you like thrills and chills?  Below is an excerpt from our Suspense Short Story Collection   KILLER AT THE DOOR

Doris must make a life-or-death decision when a blood-splattered stranger pounds on the door of her isolated cabin. Is he a desperate victim or a deranged killer?

     Doris, irritated by a knock on the door, remained at the computer to finish her sentence. She hadn't expected or wanted anyone to disturb her. That's why she had rented this isolated cabin fifteen miles from the small town of Manning. The cabin was located on a lonely road where few passed and nobody lingered.
She had left Sioux Falls three weeks ago, right after the funeral, car filled with stacks and stacks of her husband's notes. It seemed natural that she would return to the district Jim and she knew best, on the edge of the Pine Ridge Reserva­tion. Jim's work had started here; here she would find the solitude it would take to finish it. She would herself complete his book, the culmination of his vast and brilliant study of Native American culture, a work that would keep him alive. Doris, alone, understood his message well enough to give his book real form and meaning. She knew she must publish it at once while the memory of the young professor still glowed brightly in the minds of his colleagues.
     The knock became louder, a pounding. Total return to reality brought with it the familiar headache, the stiffness caused from long hours at the computer. Probably a stranded motorist wanting to use the phone, she thought.
     Almost midnight‑‑she wasn't surprised; often she lost track of time. She switched on the porch light and lifted the heavy gray drape from the glass panel.
Eyes, close to the glass, frantic, glazed, bored into hers. Blood, all over him, sprang from a deep, jagged gash on his head. Blood flowed into the sandy hair, drenched the white shirt. He raised a large, imploring hand, leaving splotches of blood on the pane.
     “My God!”
     Doris snatched her fingers from the night latch she had been about to open and shrank back toward the phone. The sheriff from Manning could be here in fifteen or twenty minutes. Since she had arrived, no one had called her, nor had she made any calls. The receiver tight against her ear sounded dead. Had the phone ever worked? She tried again and again to get a dial tone, but heard only the same stillness that engulfed the room.   
     The pounding started again. The erratic banging of fists frightened her more than the silent phone.
     Doris approached cautiously and looked out again.
     “You must... ” he gasped. “You must help me!”
     Even since her last glimpse of him, he had grown weaker. What if he died and she had not even tried to assist him? No matter how she felt about it, no matter how frightened she was, she must open the door. She had to admit him, attempt to stop the flow of blood that if not quelled soon would surely kill him.
     Doris unlocked the latch and reached out to assist him. Just inside the doorway, he staggered and despite her frenzied efforts to catch him, fell. She stared at the wide shoulders, the thick hair, tawny in the direct light, at the blood soaking into the carpet. As she turned him around, his eyes opened, light eyes, a blue‑gray. She watched them fill with pain, flicker, close. He attempted to speak, but his words were muffled, incoherent.    He kept repeating what sounded like the same warning over and over. Doris bent closer, straining to obtain some meaning. “You must... lock... lock the door!”
     With stiff, nervous motions, she whirled, slammed the door shut and clicked the lock. Turning back to him, she spoke with voice as muffled as his. “Who's out there?
His answer was impossible to comprehend. Plaintively, like a child, he stretched out his hand to her. The effort seemed to exhaust him. As his arm dropped, his eyes fell shut.
Doris headed to the bathroom to get a towel. Carefully she washed blood from his face, a broad face that probably always had upon it the outline of a beard.
     The cold water momentarily revived him. “I stopped to change a tire.” Ragged intakes of breath cut into his words. “When he stopped, I thought he was going to help me. He hit me with the tire iron.” A gurgling sounded deep in his throat. “My wife started screaming. He struck her down right in front of me. He killed her.”
     “She's dead? Are you sure?”
     His moan and the word, “Yes,” ran together.
     “How did you get away?” Doris gave him no time to answer. “Did he follow you?”
     “I'm on foot. This is the only house anywhere around. He knows that. He has to kill me.” His voice shook with pain. “I can identify... ”
     You had better not try to talk.”
    “Janet's dead!” His hands clutching at her possessed overwhelming strength. He clung to her, desperate sobs racking his body.
     “No matter what's happened,” she said, “you must be strong. Janet would expect that of you.” She continued talking to him softly, her words comforting, but untrue, the way she had talked to Jim. After a while his raspy breathing began to grow calmer, more rhythmic. She eased him back against the carpet, wiping at damp blood on her blouse.
     His eyes opened again, helpless, entreating. “Do you have a gun?”
Jim and she had spent many an afternoon at target practice competing for first place. She had become as good a shot as he, and  she had stuffed the revolver that they shared into her suitcase before leaving the university. Obediently, she went into the bedroom and with trembling hands placed shells into the cylinder before returning to the front room.
     Had his breathing become dangerously faint? She knelt beside him, listening. His breath was barely audible, but steady. Doris laid down the gun and searched his clothing for some clue to who he was. Her fingers shook as she opened his billfold‑‑a picture of a pretty, dark‑haired woman, lots of cash, a South Dakota driver’s license: Gordon Litel, born l959, Mission, South Dakota. She didn't know much more about him than she had before, except that the picture of the sweet‑faced wife made her hear the screams and envision the brutal blows.
     A sharp rapping sounded at the door. The gun felt icy as she gripped it, rising. She could sense the presence of the person who stood on the other side. She felt her heart begin to beat irregularly and the strength drained from her legs. “Who's there? Who are you?”
    “You must let me in!”
     Doris raised the drape and let it fall back in place. In this instant of vision she glimpsed strong, well‑defined fea­tures. Sensitive dark eyes, the tense way his lips compressed, made her think of Jim. Jim's face began merging with his, began urging her to throw open the door and be safely enfolded in strong arms.
Doris backed away. She could no longer trust her own eyes. Had she become that frightened‑‑beyond reality or logic?  She must not allow herself to give into panic.
“I know he's in there! There's blood all over the porch.”    

Bargain Deal:  Purchase Killer at the Door on Smashwords    8 short stories for $1.99!

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