THE DEVIL AND THE DIRT ROAD – EXCERPT – CHAPTER ONE

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The following is an excerpt from my upcoming novel, The Devil and the Dirt Road, to be released July 4th. Copyright 2014 Jessica MacIntyre. All rights reserved.

 

Attempting to steady her nerves and taking the last sip of morning coffee, Lucy Morgan’s hands shook. She wasn’t sure if it was the massive dose of caffeine she’d consumed since waking up at 6 a.m. from her nightmares, or if it had been the nightmares themselves. Since being asked over a week ago to visit the dying woman at Strait Richmond Hospital she’d been digging around in old newspaper articles, reading about and dissecting the poor unfortunate soul she was about to meet.

Alice Sutherland, ninety years old. No living family and dying in hospital…alone. Usually that would be enough to make people feel sorry for anyone who was kept there, but nobody felt sorry for Alice. Alice was not the sweet little grey haired old grandmother she visibly appeared to be. Simply put, she was a cold blooded killer. Alice had committed murder at the age of twenty nine and had been locked away ever since. Her family, her friends and indeed the entire community had turned their backs on her, and it was no different now that she was dying. Furthermore, from what Lucy could gather, only her most immediate needs were being met. Nobody stayed in the room or spoke to her in an effort to comfort her or help ease her transition into death. What Alice had done was so horrible, so unspeakable, that people across the board felt justified in ignoring her, hoping the cancer that was eating away at her insides would take her quickly so that she and her horrifying act could finally be forgotten.

Lucy thumbed through the file of newspaper clippings and old court records once more. The collection was thick but none of the items within it contained the answer she wanted, the one answer many people sought but never obtained. What made Alice Sutherland murder her own child?

Ben Sutherland was nine years old at the time of his death, and by all accounts, a pleasant and likeable boy. Neighbours of that time recalled seeing him out on the back road community of Oban, riding his bike and fishing. He always seemed to be with Jenny Fougere, also nine years old. The two of them had been neighbours and friends since birth. Firstly because their mothers were friends, and secondly because in such an isolated little place like Oban there weren’t many other children to play with. Tragically Jenny had died that summer too under mysterious circumstances. The death had been ruled an accident, but there were rumblings and rumors after Alice was arrested that she had killed Jenny too. Some were absolutely convinced that Alice, after murdering Jenny, had decided that Ben knew too much, knew what she’d done and had threatened to tell on her. She killed Jenny out of some kind of evil and sick impulse, but she had killed Ben to shut him up. That was the legend anyway, and as happens with local folklore, if spoken enough, the tale is true by common knowledge as far as folks are concerned.

Alice was never formally charged with Jenny’s death. Jenny had been found at the bottom of a well, reported by none other than Ben. There was no proof that Alice had killed the girl, but when she was found by her husband and a search party three days later, holding the small broken body of their only child, that was the only proof people seemed to need. At least a dozen witnesses had seen her, the small boy in her arms, looking down at him with cold and unfeeling eyes. Reports said that she hadn’t even cried. Not that day, not at trial, and at no time during her long incarceration did she ever express any kind of remorse to anyone.

“I don’t know if this is a good idea,” Robert said, interrupting her thoughts. Her fiancé was looking at her with his normally serene blue eyes narrowed, his brow drawn down in worry. He was standing there in his work clothes, overalls and steel toe boots, hard hat in one hand, silver lunch pail in the other. He put the items on the kitchen counter and ran his hands through his longish black hair before drawing her in for a hug. “That woman is evil. Anyone who murders her own kid…I don’t know. I think you’d be better off staying away from that story. It might not be good for you, Lucy. I don’t want you to… I mean I wish you’d reconsider. For your own sake.”

She knew what he was referring to without actually coming out and saying it. It filled her with anxiety that he would worry about her at this point. She had been fine for quite some time now, almost ten months. Her sister’s murder in Montreal had stunned them all, but not surprised them. With the lifestyle she had lived – drugs, prostitution and everything that goes with it – her death had not been a matter of if, simply a matter of when. They all knew it was bound to happen at some point, but it had been a shock nonetheless.

For a good six months Lucy had not been able to do much other than lay on the couch or stay in bed. The loss was so deep and so sharp, much more agonizing than she had ever expected, that it knocked her out of the game for a while. Unbeknownst to Robert she had even considered suicide. It took a lot of time and a lot of Prozac but she was finally on the mend. In the last three months she had even gone back to work. Up until now she had just been given small assignments. Political rallies, community center dedications, business openings. All well and good for a reporter in a small tri county area, but Lucy didn’t want to be a small time reporter forever. Her colleagues seemed content with their jobs at the paper, but Lucy was not. In some ways she felt like she had to be a big success to make up for the failings of her sister. Natalie had been so smart and so much of her potential had been lost that she refused to lose even a tiny shred of hers. Lucy wanted to make a name for herself in a big way, and this just might be the story that would help her do that.

“I know you’re worried, Robert,” she said pushing her shoulder length blonde hair out of her face so she could look directly at him. She was quite a bit shorter and had to extend her head almost all the way back to look into his eyes. His expression grew darker still, even though she was trying to reassure him. “Really, I’m ok with this. I know you think it’s too similar to what happened with Natalie, being that its murder and all, but covering murder is part of being a journalist and I need to learn to suck it up and deal with it. I’ll never get anywhere if I don’t.”

His face softened after a few moments. “I know what you’re saying. I still don’t like it though.” His expression changed to his usual slanted smile. “Are you sure I can’t convince you to be my little house mouse? We own this place outright thanks to my parents and our bills aren’t high. I make enough to support us both. You don’t have to work at all, Lucy.”

Robert’s parents had given them the family home in their will. It was larger than necessary for just two people. They planned to have a family but that was still a way off. “You know that’s not going to happen. I’m not that kind of girl,” she winked.

Robert sighed, letting her go with a kiss and picking up his hard hat and lunch pail once more. “I know. That’s what made me love you in the first place. But now I’m greedy. I just want you all to myself.”

“Aww. Well maybe someday I’ll make enough money for you to quit your job and stay home.”

Robert huffed. “And there’s the other reason I fell in love with you,” he said. “Your sense of humor.”

Lucy gave him a playful swat as he brushed past her on his way out the door. “It’s just a matter of time,” she said.

“I know it is. That’s what scares me. Hey, take it easy today ok? I’ll see you when I get home.”

The door closed behind him and she listened as the engine to his truck turned over in the driveway. Quickly she began to gather up her things and head out. She could never bring herself to tell Robert that she felt uneasy by herself in the old place. It was a gifted house and beggars couldn’t be choosers. She had hoped he would suggest building a house of their own someday but the more she lived here the more she came to realize that this was his childhood home and not only did he never want to leave it, but he hoped to raise his own children here.

The old two story, four bedroom was in good shape, but deathly cold in the winter. They spent a good chunk of money on heating oil and were also using a wood stove. The place needed to be reinsulated and was scheduled for that construction in the coming weeks. Right now Nova Scotia was in the midst of an uncharacteristically beautiful Indian summer, but in a few weeks they’d be freezing again if it wasn’t done. It had been put off by Robert and his parents before him, but now Lucy had put her foot down. She told Robert she refused to stay here even one more winter if it didn’t happen now, and Robert, who had proven time and again that he’d do anything for her, finally relented.

Lucy threw her bag into the front seat of the little red Honda and headed out. The unseasonable warmth had come with somewhat of a drought and the dust on the dirt road kicked up behind the car as she drove, receiving a good thick coating of it before she reached the paved highway that would take her to the hospital. Living in the tiny place where Ben Sutherland, and possibly Jenny Fougere, had been murdered had never weirded her out before. Now, suddenly, she felt the ghoulish tickle of icy fingers crawling down the back of her neck, marking a trail all the way to the bottom of her spine. Lucy shuddered. She had never been so happy to leave Oban behind.

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COVER REVEAL – THE DEVIL AND THE DIRT ROAD

Release date: July 4th

Synopsis:

When Lucy Morgan, a small town newspaper reporter living in Oban Cape Breton, is given an assignment to interview a dying woman who served life in prison for the murder of her own son, she believes it may be the springboard to a bigger, better job. Soon the story Alice Sutherland reveals on her deathbed disturbs her so deeply that Lucy’s own life is thrown into chaos. Alice has never denied the murder itself, but when she finally reveals the reason for it Lucy is left reeling. Soon a similar string of events begins to unfold in Lucy’s life and the only way to stop it may be to walk the same road as Alice.

Stay tuned for an excerpt this Saturday, June 21st.

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The Pit of Procrastination

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Ah, the art of procrastination. If you follow this blog at all you’ll notice it’s been well over a month since I posted. My apologies. I have no excuses. I seem to have fallen into the same pit all writers do from time to time: The Pit of Procrastination.

The Pit of Procrastination is a dark and scary place sometimes. It’s filled with weird habits and hobbies. Things you haven’t done in years that you suddenly have the urge to do…right now! I have tons of writing to do, but it seems that since my dad passed away I can’t find it in me to sit down and do it. I’ve had about three writing sessions that I’d actually call sessions. The others were false starts. I’d sit down, go at it for twenty minutes to half an hour and then start to feel overwhelmed. Before I knew it I’d be watching cooking videos or full length Foo Fighters concerts on YouTube.

Recently I’ve started making all of my family’s bread. The price of bread has skyrocketed and so making it from scratch has proven to be both economical and a wonderful procrastination tool. But it hasn’t stopped there. I’ve recently rediscovered my fascination with cooking. Years ago I was accepted into cooking school, and would have gone, but my student loan hit a snag and although I did get it, it didn’t arrive in time for me to begin the class. I had a love affair with Saturday morning cooking shows on PBS. This was the late 90s,  before I had access to YouTube, and so my love of watching people put together fabulous food things was relegated to once a week. Now… Oh my god! All you have to do is get on the internet and there are multiple videos showing you how to make anything you can dream up. It’s a bit like crack. It’s hard to stop watching.

It’s not that I don’t want to write, but for some reason, I’ve fallen down into the pit. I’m trying to get out but there’s so much bread dough down here that Dave Grohl and I are drowning in it. Oh, and I’ve also read 36 books in the last few months. While that’s a necessary (and fun) part of being a writer I have gone way overboard with it. I’ve spent a lot of time on Amazon ordering paperbacks. So much so that I’m starting to consider having someone supervise me when I go on that site. Lately if someone recommends a book to me that sounds good I HAVE to go read it. A guy at a bus stop told me about The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet and I went out the next day to purchase it. I’m about three hundred pages into the sequel too (which I highly recommend!)

It’s ok though. It’s quiet down here. I enjoy my solitude and always have. Some people close to me are starting to think I’m ignoring them. Not true, I’m just trapped in the pit. Once you’re in it’s hard to get out and if someone comes along and wants you to come up for some air you even get hostile. When someone comes to the opening and shouts over the edge you just spit at them and growl. It’s not like I haven’t come up at all, but the more time I spend down there the more time I want to.

I’ve made up my mind to come out though. I have a rewrite to do for a book that’s coming out in July, and of course, the next book in the vampire series will be out in October. Thank god the bulk of the work on both of those things is done. I feel like I’m just rambling here. Hopefully it makes some sense.

By the way, if you order a book from me it may arrive covered in flour and smelling like homemade bread.

Cheers!

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Lost…

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In the three weeks since my father has passed away I think I would describe where I am right now as, ‘Lost.’ That’s the word I’d use to define this time in my life. I lost my dad, and I’ve also had to come to terms with the loss of another important relationship. That person is still alive, but I’ve come to the conclusion that people just are who they are. You can’t make them or wish them into something you want them to be. You can’t make someone love you if they don’t, you can’t make someone be proud of you if they aren’t, and you can’t force them to see your value and worth if they are blind to it. I’ve lived apart from this person for a number of years and in that time we seemed to get along, seeing each other now and then, and I was convinced that our relationship had mended. In reality what happened is that I was so removed from them that I forgot what they were, but there’s nothing like a crisis to remind you, and sadly, I was very much reminded. That relationship is effectively over.

Two losses in three weeks, and one is as profound as the other. My heart is absolutely broken. All I’ve wanted to do in the last few weeks is stay in bed and read. I’ve been lost in the world of books, reading about ten books in the past month, but haven’t done much writing. I’ve only just recently begun to edit another book that I hope to have out this summer, but it’s been slow going. Grief messes with your creativity in a very strange way. Sometimes it fills up all the space in your head until you can’t have any other thoughts. It wakes you up out of a dead sleep to remind you that it’s still there. It keeps you from doing your work. Writing makes me happy, but I just can’t seem to even want to be happy right now. Mainly what I’ve been craving is solitude. Too much of that is not good, I know, but I’ve always coveted my alone time, even when things are good. It’s just the way I am. In the times that I’ve gone out it’s been because I’ve forced myself, or my husband has gently nudged me to go.

Unexpected things are hard as well. I really didn’t realize how much of my life revolved around caring for my dad until he was gone. A simple trip to the grocery store is cause to be sad. It’s hard to walk by all the things I’d usually put in the cart specifically for him and leave them on the shelf. It’s also hard to come home and not see him in his chair. I’m not sure what to do with myself right now. People keep saying, ‘life goes on’. Well, thank you Captain Obvious. I know it goes on, but it’s forever changed now. Annoyingly there is also this belief that you shouldn’t be as upset for someone’s death if they were old. What the hell is with that? So, because he was here longer I’m not supposed to miss him as much? What a bunch of crap.

I’m not sure what I’m trying to even say here so I guess it’s a good thing this post is entitled, “Lost” because the entire thing pretty much is. I’m trying to get ‘back on track’, to return to some kind of normalcy or routine but I haven’t been able to manage it yet. I know I’ll get there at some point, but for now, I’m still really only interested in being left alone. So if you try to get in touch with me and it takes a bit of time for me to get back to you, I’m really not ignoring you or trying to be rude. I’m just in bed, reading.

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The Vampires Of Soldiers Cove: The Unborn

Thanks to Krystal Clear Book Reviews for the great review. 🙂

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Eulogy For My Father

I gave the eulogy at my Dad’s funeral today. Thought I’d post it for anyone who couldn’t make it or might be interested in reading it. It was important for me to do it because I wanted people to hear about what kind of man he was. Most of the people there knew him anyway, but I just find that catholic services almost always say little to nothing about the person they are there to celebrate, and so I decided to speak. Here’s what I said:

In life there is a difference between being rich, and being wealthy. I learned this lesson at an early age. Albert was my grandfather, but he raised me, and I always called him, ‘Dad’.  Dad knew the difference between richness and wealth, even though he never spoke a single word about it. He didn’t have to, he lived it. Growing up we certainly weren’t rich, but we always had everything we needed. My dad was strictly a blue collar, working class kind of guy, but the lessons he taught me between the value of richness and the value of wealth is this:

Rich is owning a new car….wealthy is owning an old car and having people drop what they’re doing to help you come fix it.

Rich is having a big beautiful house…wealthy is having a home filled with people who are so familiar to you that they don’t even bother to knock when they drop in.

Rich is going on a fancy vacation to a tropical place…wealthy is walking into Tim Hortons, and even though each and every table is occupied, you know people so well that you can just sit anywhere and people are always happy to see you.

My Dad had all these things. He had them in spades. At the end of our lives, all we really leave behind are the relationships we have with one another and from my Dad I got an inheritance of kindness, compassion and community service.

One of my favorite movies is called: “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In that movie a character named George Bailey is despondent and in need of help, and is so beloved that the entire town comes out during a cold winter night to rescue him. My Dad quite often went out of his way to help people who were down on their luck, even though he may not have had much to share. At the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life” George Bailey’s brother raises his glass and says, “Here’s to my brother, George. The richest man in town.”

Well, Dad, you may not have been rich, but you were the wealthiest human being I’ve ever met. So, here’s to you. Here’s to Albert. The wealthiest man in town.

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Thank You…

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It’s Monday March 17th.  Three thirty in the morning to be exact, and I am not asleep and have not had good sleep for days and days, so although I’m making this blog post, and yes I’m a writer, the grammar and whatnot will probably be craptastic, so please, forgive me.

The last couple of weeks have been a tornado of doctors, hospitals, tears, worry and fear. You see, my grandfather has been living with us for the last four years. The last year or so his health has been tenuous to say the least. We made several trips to the emergency room, spending many nights on hard uncomfortable stretchers while he was poked and prodded with needles and IVs, all the time asking when he could go home. He was 81 and suffering from Congestive Heart Failure along with COPD and Emphysema, among other things.

I grew up in my grandfather’s home and he was ‘Dad’ to me. He was the father in my life. I was thinking about it in the last few weeks and in all that time I can’t remember him ever really saying an unkind word to me. He had a sweet and gentle nature, even when terribly ill. A nurse who had been poking and prodding him for hours once remarked to me, “He’s an agreeable little fellow isn’t he?” I laughed. “All his life,” I said.

Two weeks ago he, for the first time ever in his life, did not get out of bed for two whole days. He wasn’t eating or drinking either. We called an ambulance to transport him to the hospital because he was too weak to get in a cab. This wasn’t the first time we’d had to do this, and honestly, when they took him out that day I was sure he’d be back, just like every other time. Turns out this time was different.

A few days ago the doctors let us know that there was no recovering this time. Basically his body was wearing out and they would focus on ‘comfort care’.  In the back of my mind I guess I knew this was going to happen, but still, it’s a shock to hear it. It’s hard to imagine the one person who’s always been there for you without hesitation or judgement will just be gone. But that’s just what happened.

Tonight, at around seven o’clock, I held my Dad’s hand as he passed away. That may sound awful, but you know what? It really wasn’t. We were alone, and I turned up the heat to make the room was toasty warm just the way he liked it, and I had made sure to keep the door closed all afternoon so he could have quiet. In that little room in the stillness it was just he and I as he took his last breath and slipped away from this world. It may sound crazy but it was as peaceful and beautiful as the birth of any baby. Although my eyes hurt from crying and my head and heart ache, it really hasn’t been the worst day of my life. It’s actually been one of the best. I’m so lucky and grateful that I got to be there for it. It was truly a privilege.  My mother worked in nursing homes for many years and often told me it was, but I didn’t truly understand that until now.

After he passed away I didn’t call the nurse in right away. I sat and talked to him for fifteen minutes or so and just kept holding his hand. In your life many people will love you, but if you’re lucky, nobody will love you quite like your Dad, and indeed, I was incredibly lucky.

Thank you Dad, for everything. Especially for doing all the things you didn’t have to do like raise a child that wasn’t even your own. Not for one minute did you ever make me feel like a burden or a problem, even though the horrible bouts of my illness, you still only just loved and cared for me. You were a true gentleman, and a human rarity, and I’ll love and miss you for the rest of my life.

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