QSFer Rick R. Reed has a new MM paranormal thriller out: “Third Eye.”
Who knew that a summer thunderstorm and a lost little boy would conspire to change single dad Cayce D’Amico’s life in an instant? With Luke missing, Cayce ventures into the woods near their house to find his son, only to have lightning strike a tree near him, sending a branch down on his head. When he awakens the next day in the hospital, he discovers he has been blessed or cursed—he isn’t sure which—with psychic ability. Along with unfathomable glimpses into the lives of those around him, he’s getting visions of a missing teenage girl.
When a second girl disappears soon after the first, Cayce realizes his visions are leading him to their grisly fates. Cayce wants to help, but no one believes him. The police are suspicious. The press wants to exploit him. And the girls’ parents have mixed feelings about the young man with the “third eye.”
Cayce turns to local reporter Dave Newton and, while searching for clues to the string of disappearances and possible murders, a spark ignites between them. Little do they know that nearby, another couple—dark and murderous—are plotting more crimes and wondering how to silence the man who knows too much about them.
She was only thirteen. It wasn’t fair she now lay, bound, waiting for death. Before, there had been struggling: clawing and fighting, scratching their faces, pulling at their hair, batting at whatever part she could reach. Her breath had come in choking spasms, adrenaline pumping, burning, anteing up the hysteria so much she thought her air would be blocked. Then had come the dread that made her lose most of her fight, when her terror-addled brain had begun to accept her fate was to die here, in this tiny, hot room, with the only witness to her demise the sparkling eyes of her killers and the maddening, crooked whirl of a ceiling fan long past its prime and wobbling, doing nothing more than blowing the overheated, moist air around the room. The dread had risen up, a nausea twisting her gut and making her afraid she would vomit. And then had come the numbness, a dull tingling throughout her body that precluded movement, stripping her of coherent thought.
They stood above her. Faces she had trusted, faces she had seen before, around her neighborhood. The man she and her friends had had a crush on. He used to drive by her little house on Ohio Street in his old red Mustang, looking the picture of youth, confidence, masculinity. His hair was dark, cut bristle-brush short, and his face always clean-shaven. Thin lips bordered rows of perfect white teeth, and when he had smiled at her, only hours ago, she had lit up. A tingling had started in her toes and had worked its way up until the color rose to her cheeks. At her young age, the interest of a man in his twenties was inconceivable, although it had been something she had hoped for since the first day she had seen him, back at the onset of summer, when the sun had turned white-hot, burning up the grass and making illusory waves rise from the hot, cracked sidewalks.
He had pulled to the curb and sat there, car idling. She sat in the front yard, sorting through Barbie clothes: ball gowns and swimming suits, miniskirts and stretch pants. He didn’t say anything, not right away. She had looked at him once, then looked away, certain his interest could never be in her. Suddenly she felt ridiculous with her metal trunk, her Barbie dolls, and all the outfits she had once been so proud to collect. Swiftly, she returned the clothes to their case and slammed it shut.
She leaned back, resting on her palms, and lifted her face to the sun. Its heat beat down relentlessly, making the skin on her face feel tight.
She felt his eyes on her still. She opened her own eyes a crack and regarded him peripherally. He really was looking at her! The adorable little smile that caused a dimple to rise in his right cheek deepened in the sun’s play of shadow and light. She leaned back more, left hand reaching out to surreptitiously move the Barbie trunk farther away. In this posture, here on the withered and brown grass, she felt that her breasts, little more than two tiny bumps an unkind boy at school had once referred to as her anthills, looked larger. She could be eighteen, couldn’t she? With the right makeup and her hair pulled up….
But now her long blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail, clipped with a pink plastic barrette. She wore a pair of cutoff shorts and an oversized South ParkT-shirt belonging to her older brother. He would have killed her had he known she was wearing it. But he was away at the Y’s summer camp and would never know the difference.
The idling of the car was like an animal purring.
And then the sun disappeared, and she sat in darkness. Beneath her closed lids, she sensed someone standing over her.
Why hadn’t she heard the slam of the car door? Her eyelids fluttered, but she did not open them. It would be just like her mother to come outside now and stand above her, hands on hips, and ask her what she thought she was doing.
Finally, she opened her eyes and blinked at the brightness of the August day. He was smiling. So unlike the other guys in Fawcettville, he was dressed in pressed black slacks and a collarless white shirt, buttoned to his neck.
“How did you know my name?”
“Oh, I make it my business to know the names of all the pretty young ladies around here.”
Lucy felt the heat rise to her face once more. She grinned and could not think of a single word to say.
She shoved the case farther away, until it was completely out of her grasp. The case lay in the white heat, glinting, looking, she hoped, as if it had nothing to do with her.
“What? Oh…no, no. These are my little sister’s. She always makes such a mess of things, and I was just organizing for her.”
“What a good sister.”
The two said nothing for a while, and Lucy began to grow uncomfortable under his gaze. She shifted her long, tanned legs in front of her, crossing them at the ankle.
“I was driving by and saw you sitting there, and I had to tell you”—he hunkered down beside her—“what a lovely sight you are. It made me stop just to have a better look.”
She laughed and thought she sounded way too much like the thirteen-year-old she was. “Thank you,” she whispered, wondering where her voice had gone.
“No, thank you, for being here, for making the heat of this day a little more pleasant.”
Oh, stop! she wanted to cry out but whispered again, “Thank you.”
He leaned closer, enough for her to feel his breath near her ear. In spite of the day’s heat, his nearness caused gooseflesh to rise on her arms, her spine to tingle.
“Listen.” He glanced around the empty street with eyes like none she had ever seen: green, ringed with thick black lashes. And in his gaze was a conspiracy that included only the two of them. “My car has air-conditioning. I know this is out of the blue and all, but I wondered if you’d like to go for a ride with me.”
Lucy glanced back at her house. She wished suddenly she lived in a bigger house, in a better neighborhood. Here on this modest residential street close to the river, her small white clapboard house was surrounded by other houses very much like it, some of them covered in rusting aluminum siding. She pictured her mother inside, on a vinyl-covered kitchen chair, watching All My Children on a thirteen-inch portable TV on the Formica-topped kitchen table. Her mother, she knew, would never approve of what was transpiring here, right in her front yard.
He stood suddenly. “Okay, okay. I get the message.”
“Wait.” She sat up straighter. A pickup rumbled by and left in its wake a smell of exhaust and a rush of hot air.
He turned. “What? Need to get your mom’s permission?”
“Of course not!” Her voice came out higher than she would have liked, the whiny protest of a child. She stood. “I’d like to come with you. But I can’t stay out too long.” She was about to say “My mom will be worried” but realized how immature that would sound. “I’ve got some people I have to meet in a little while.”
He smiled. And the smile erased any nervousness she had about going with him. After all, she had seen him around the neighborhood dozens of times. He wasn’t exactly a stranger, not really.
“That’s fine, Lucy. I’ll have you back within an hour. I promise. I certainly wouldn’t want to get off on the wrong foot with you.” He winked, and she followed him to the waiting car.
Lucy tripped getting into the car. Her head bumped against the chrome surrounding the upper doorframe, and her hand slid across the black vinyl seat. The laugh that followed came out high and flighty, a little bird. Lucy reddened once more, embarrassed by her klutziness.
He was grinning, already behind the steering wheel. “Don’t worry about it. We are all prey to tiny lapses in coordination.”
He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel while Lucy settled beside him, doing her best to recover her composure. With elaborate care, she positioned herself on the seat and crossed her legs. She admired her legs and hoped he did too: long and tan, smooth, the legs of a woman.
It was then she felt, more than noticed, the presence of someone else in the car. Lucy turned and saw her for the first time. In the back sat a young woman. Her hair, like Lucy’s, was blonde, but more of a brassy platinum shade. She wore a pair of dark glasses with cat-eye frames, bright-red lipstick, and a silk scarf tied around her neck. Her simple white shift contrasted sharply with her peach-colored skin. Lucy thought she was about the most glamorous thing she had ever seen in Fawcettville.
He noticed her looking. “This is my girlfriend, Myra. Sweetheart, say hello to Lucy.”
Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.