We've just released another YA! The second book in the Gatekeepers series is in the works, but this one is a stand-alone single title. And it's very spooky! Check out this excerpt from ASHLYN'S RADIO:
They'd trimmed her nails short, for her sake as well as their own. Still those fingernails cut little half moons into her palms when she fisted her hands this tightly. The pain it produced helped her hold back the screaming, for a while at least.
And Leslie desperately didn't want to start screaming again. Oh, but the pressure! It was rising inside, so ready to explode.
They would tie her down, she knew. They'd said as much. They'd promised it. God, they'd done it so many times before. Leslie looked at the strap-wide bruises on her wrists from where she’d fought the restraints. They matched the ones on her ankles.
“How are we today, Leslie?” someone asked.
She blinked. Two attendants stood by her bed. White uniforms on both of them. Pale nylons on the woman; big belly on the man. Soft shoes that were too damned soundless on the polished tiled floor. The smiles were dutiful and the nods were encouraging as they called her name, tried to make her focus.
Leslie struggled to concentrate, pulling herself up and up through the drugs the two other attendants had given her last night. Thread by thread, she forged through the thick haze, mentally snapping each one as she went along.
Ah, but the fear waited just beyond. It dug in a little deeper with each of those threads that broke.
“Dear God,” she whispered groggily. “The evil is coming again.”
“Now, now, Leslie,” Big Belly warned. “We mustn't start that. We know what happens, don’t we?”
They propped her up with pillows.
Had she spoken out loud? Leslie put her hands on her knees and grabbed hard at the flesh. She began to rock back and forth on the bed. Humming the tune—always the same tune—that haunted through her mind.
She watched the attendants walk around the white room, doing the things they did every single morning.
She had to get out of here! She wasn’t crazy! No matter how it looked, she wasn’t crazy. And she still had a job to do.
Damned cops! They’d ruined everything. She’d laid it out so well. The car, drenched inside and out with gasoline, parked on the tracks. A full tank of gas and the trunk and back seat laden with six more 5-gallon cans of fuel just for good measure. Everything had been ready and waiting for impact. But the cops had come, followed quickly by the firemen and the ambulance. The firemen had foamed the little Cavalier white with fire retardant, then removed it over her screaming protests. The cops and the paramedics had tried to calm her, tried to restrain her, which only made her fight harder. That’s when the first needle full of sedatives went in. She’d been trying to fight her way up out of that hole ever since.
It was so unfair! By keeping her here, they were killing her daughter!
Leslie realized she was biting her lips and forced herself to stop. She had to be good. Had to show them she was calm. Show them she was better.
Hooks rattled on the metal rod as someone tore open the curtains. Leslie's eyes stung and she squinted as light poured through the wire-covered safety glass. The janitor came in and didn't even look up as he mopped over the floor.
The ice water glubbed into the small Styrofoam cup as Pale Nylons poured it from the pitcher. She held Leslie's chin tight and looked at her sternly, holding the water at bay. “Are you going to be good today, Leslie?”
Leslie tightened her grasp on her bare, boney knees. She pushed more scars into the skin as she nodded her head that she would.
She drank down the water and one cupful more, then looked at the woman. Maybe she could make her understand... “I need your help,” she said. “I have to get out of here.”
“As soon as you're better.”
“That may be too late!” she shrieked, forgetting to keep her voice calm and reasonable. The drugs were wearing down, her panic growing. Leslie moved her hands, digging her fingers hard into her thighs. “It's evil,” she whimpered.
The attendants looked at each other instead of at Leslie. Her terror grew as she saw the familiar resolve in their eyes.
They didn't understand! It was purely evil and it was coming...coming for her daughter this time.
“Don't let my daughter come here!” Leslie screamed, begging the attendants to listen. “Don't let my daughter come anywhere near here. Keep her away! It'll get her...it'll get her if she comes!”
How could she get through to them? Though nearly mad with frustration, she wasn’t crazy. The evil was ready, wanting. And Dear God in Heaven, he wanted her daughter. Body, mind and soul — he was coming to claim her only child.
“Leslie, calm down,” Big Belly commanded. “We'll keep her away. She's nowhere near.”
“No, you don't understand! I've seen those dead-empty eyes! I've looked in the face of all things unholy...saw it grinning back.”
The other attendant, Pale Nylons, backed out of the room. Another needle, Leslie knew. She was going for the needle again. To settle her down. To quiet her.
Dammit, they had to listen!
Thin lines of blood colored Big Belly’s throat as she began clawing in desperation — clawing at whatever she could get her fingers on. Big Belly hollered and held her hands back. Two other white uniforms. Two more big bellies.
“No!” Leslie wailed. They had no idea! They didn't know what she knew!
Two straps snapped around her wrists; two more around her ankles. A young doctor with shaky hands pushed the needle into her left thigh. “There, there,” he said repeatedly, as if the words were magic. As if those two words would keep the darkness away.
“There, there,” Leslie finally repeated, falling into the stupor. She stopped fighting at the restraints as the threads closed over again. One by one by one.
And then she heard the humming turn into gentle words. As Big Belly wiped his brow and slowly blurred out of focus, Leslie realized only then that the words were coming from her. Sung to that tune from her childhood — She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain — but with those other words, the hateful ones.
And the conductor's going to meet her, when she comes
When she comes!
And the conductor's going to meet her, when she comes
Oh she'll walk up to the train
And they all think you're insane...
And the conductor's going to be there when she comes.
One strap – poorly secured – let go at Leslie's right wrist. Despite the drugs they'd shot her with, she sat up screaming again.
“For the love of God, Ashlyn, stay out of Prescott Junction!”
* * *
After they’d strapped Leslie down again and closed the curtains, one of the attendants shook his head.
“Good thing she doesn’t know her daughter’s already here.”
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