The Devil of Light

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The Thursday mystery teaser from the bestselling first Cass Elliot novel

By Gae-Lynn Woods

“What are we tying it up for?”

“Do you know how to tell if a deer’s alive?”

“Good point. By the way, that’s a dollar for the cuss bucket. Might be two. Don’t know about dickweed.”

“What is your obsession with the cuss bucket? Mom’s not even around.”

“The more you put in, the sooner I eat all the pizza the all-you-can-eat buffet will let me.”

“It’s alive,” Mark said, rubbing his shirtsleeve across his forehead as they finished hog-tying the deer.

“How do you know that, Einstein?”

“It snorted. Or farted.”

“Great.”

“Lift on three.”

Grunting with the effort, they heaved the unconscious deer into the back of the Vega. The car moaned with the added weight, creaking as they shoved the lifeless body deeper into the hatch area. Breathing heavily, they leaned against the car.

“You get us into some serious messes.”

Photo by Philip Graves on Unsplash

“Hey man, it could have been you. The coin just flipped my way, and –”

“What’s that?” Matt asked, pointing into the woods. A light bobbed faintly in the distance.

“Not a flashlight.”

“More like a torch.”

They exchanged grins and trotted for the tree line, watching for a fence but finding none. The boys spotted a reddish glow and pushed underbrush aside to change direction, marking their trail. They moved forward another fifty yards and the smell of campfire underpinned with a slight tang hung in the air. The torchlight had vanished, either by virtue of distance or because it had been extinguished.

“Ouch! Damn honey locusts. I hate those things.”

“That’s another dollar,” Matt said.

“Shut up.”

They came to the edge of a clearing and hovered outside the perimeter, watching for movement. It was a crude circle no more than twenty feet across, a natural break in the woods rather than an area hacked open by man. The remains of a fire glowed inside a protective circle of small stones. Larger stones provided seating around the fire pit and the boys moved forward eagerly.

The seating stones were still warm and the stench hung heavier here. The underlying tang they had smelled in the woods had blossomed into a stinging odor.

“Nasty.”

“What did they cook?”

“Something with feathers on it,” Mark said, pointing to white down that clung to the stones ringing the fire.

“Think they would’ve plucked it first.” Matt stepped into the woods and twisted a branch from a bush. He poked at the ash. “They couldn’t have eaten it. Too foul.” He honked with laughter. “No pun intended, of course.”

“Lame, dickhead. If they didn’t eat it, what’d they cook it for?”

Matt shrugged, using the stick to scoot a small bone to the edge of the pit. “They leave anything?”

The two scavenged around the fire and made a quick survey of the surrounding woods, Matt returning to pick up the cooled bone. He turned it over in his hand as Mark wrinkled his nose. “Gross. Put it down.”

“Nope. It’s a talisman.”

“No it’s not.”

“It is if I say it is.” Matt shoved the bone in his jeans pocket and wandered around the clearing, eyes focused on the ground.

Mark scratched his chin, torn over the possibility that the bone could be a talisman, and then grabbed the stick and scooted a larger object out of the ashes. Using the hem of his shirt, he plucked it from the stones and bounced it between his hands until it cooled. “Mine’s bigger than yours,” he said, shoving his find into his brother’s line of sight before tucking it in his pocket, where it bulged.

“In your dreams, nimnod, we’re twins.”

“Let’s go. I’m hungry.”

They wove back through the woods, arguing over how best to inform their mother about the accident. As they cleared the tree line, Mark stopped in his tracks. “Dude.”

“What?”

Mark pointed at the car, where a pair of angry eyes glared through the side window. “It’s awake.”

About The Devil of Light

“This debut effort is further proof that there are undiscovered novelists out there who can more than keep up with the big names. I expect we’ll be hearing more of Gae-Lynn Woods in the future.” — Russell Blake, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Geronimo Breach, Fatal Exchange, and The Zero Sum trilogy.

A BIZARRE MURDER

When young Detective Cass Elliot responds to a 911 call at the home of a prominent businessman, she finds him violently murdered in the barnyard with his battered wife unconscious near the tool that killed him. Still raw from her own unsolved attack six years ago, Cass is stunned when confronted with graphic photographs scattered across their kitchen floor that lead to a shadowy sect called The Church of the True Believer.

A COVERT WEB OF LIES AND EXPLOITATION

Cass and her partner Mitch Stone delve into a cunning world of blackmail and violence – and find a cult concealed for nearly a century beneath the genteel, small town façade of Arcadia in East Texas. Their investigation triggers a brutal response from powerful men who will protect their identities at any cost. They unleash a ruthless killer whose actions create a media frenzy and destroy the fabric of trust within the police department.

A PERVASIVE EVIL

Cass and Mitch circle closer to the cult’s few members, following a slim lead into a night lit by fire. A night that begins with a blood ritual and ends with Cass holding a man’s life – or death – in her hands and struggling to walk the fine line between vengeance and justice.

Get it on Amazon.

Gae-Lynn Woods

is a Texan mystery writer who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Visit Gae-Lynn’s

BestSelling Reads page   |   Amazon author page   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |     Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website   |    Blog

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Avengers of Blood

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A Thursday mystery teaser

By Gae-Lynn Woods

GOOBER WAS A MYSTERY. He’d appeared one morning about forty years ago, nestled in the gnarled roots of the ancient hanging tree on the courthouse lawn, abandoned in the middle of the night. In spite of announcements on the local radio station and in the newspaper, the toddler’s parents never came forward to claim him. An elderly widow took him in and over time, Goober became a fixture in Arcadia. The odd man was probably closer to forty-five than to forty given the silver that peppered his nearly black hair. People said that Goober wasn’t truly retarded, but Martinez wasn’t so sure. Goober hadn’t finished high school and his ability to read and write was limited. Granted, he was always polite and seemed eager to help, but there was a slowness about the man, almost an innocence, that Martinez thought reflected some sort of mental challenge.

He stiffened as Forney County’s Forensic Examiner, Tom Kado, came through the gas station’s front door. As Martinez had done, he nodded briefly at the officer near the door and stopped to remove the booties covering his shoes. He shoved them in a plastic garbage bag and rubbed his eyes. Kado was new to the force, having joined only a couple of months ago. Martinez found the younger man arrogant and disrespectful of the last forensic examiner, Hank Comfrey, who had held the job for nearly five decades before dropping dead of a heart attack earlier this year. Kado was full of new procedures and science but didn’t seem to trust his gut as old Comfrey had. Martinez wasn’t sure the science was all that reliable. The wariness he felt for Kado was justified when a crucial DNA sample in a recent case was found by the state lab to be contaminated. If Martinez was the detective assigned to this murder, and he surely would be because there were no other detectives in Forney County at the moment, Kado would have to walk the straight and narrow to Martinez’ satisfaction. He met Kado at the tailgate where Goober sat, still torturing the baseball cap.

“You okay, Goob?” Kado asked.

Goober nodded but his gaze was glassy and his face devoid of color. Kado climbed up in the pickup’s bed, opened a cooler and passed a root beer to Martinez, then took one for himself and Goober. He took the cap from Goober’s hands and replaced it with an open can. “Drink.”

Slowly, Goober did. “Thanks,” he said, burping quietly.

“You up for talking?” Martinez asked.

Goober nodded.

“Why did you come to Whitehead’s tonight?”

“I ran out of potato chips.”

Photo by Matthew Smith on Unsplash

Martinez looked at the mower parked by the station’s pumps. “Did you pump gas?”

“I was gonna check her after I got the chips.”

“What time did you get here?”

“Right about five-thirty.”

“You sure?”

He pulled a beat-up Timex from a pocket and held it out. “It was almost five-thirty when I came around Church Bend.”

Martinez compared the little watch to his own. It was two minutes fast. “Did you pass anybody on the road?”

“Naw, my mower don’t go that fast.”

Kado bit back a smile, and the detective’s jaw tightened. He tried again. “Did you see any other vehicles on the road?”

“Just some tail lights.”

“Where?”

“When I was coming around Church Bend.” He turned and pointed into the night. “A car was farther down the road.”

“What kind of car?”

Goober shrugged. “All I saw was red lights.”

“What happened when you got to the store?”

“I went inside to make sure Mr. Whitehead was still open.” He blinked. “There was gas on the floor. And then smoke came out of the door in the back. So I went to see what was burning.”

“Why didn’t you call the fire department right then?”

“I was scared,” he answered in a small voice.

“You were scared but you headed toward the smoke, to the fire?”

Goober nodded, his eyes fixed on some distant, internal point.

Martinez and Kado exchanged a glance. “What happened next?”

“The smoke was bad, but the back door was open. I heard a noise and went outside and saw… the zombie. He was hanging.” He shuddered and root beer sloshed onto his overalls. “And black all over.”

“Did you see flames?”

“He was breathing fire. Like a dragon. I tried to put it out.” Goober’s eyes filled with tears and he drew a deep, stuttering breath. “But the zombie fell off the rope and started to get up. I figured he was coming after me. He fell and I ran away.”

Avengers of Blood

A deadly game of cat and mouse is playing out in Forney County…

Detective Cass Elliot is still on suspension after killing a fellow officer and Sheriff Hoffner refuses to sign her release papers. But when four people are murdered in one night, one with the exceptional brutality of a lynching, the Medical Examiner side-steps Hoffner to hire Cass and loan her to Forney County’s overstretched police department.

As Cass and her partner investigate, they realize that three of the murders were committed by the same person but find no connection between the victims. Their frustration intensifies when another victim survives and disappears instead of coming to the police.

Sheriff Hoffner is frantic about anonymous letters claiming one of his star officers is dirty, and Cass suspects a link to the current crimes. The pieces fall together when she uncovers the true identity of the man who was lynched, revealing connections between the victims, the killer, and an unpunished crime committed nearly fifty years ago.

Gae-Lynn Woods

is a Texan mystery writer who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Visit Gae-Lynn’s

BestSelling Reads page   |   Amazon author page   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Google+   |   Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website   |    Blog

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Romance teaser: Kado notices Cass

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This week’s Teaser for Romance Month on BestSelling Reads features a sparking, smoking scene from

The Devil of Light

By Gae-Lynn Woods

Tom Kado drank in Detective Cass Elliot’s fluid movements as she wove between the desks to get to the squad room’s door, and wondered what was wrong with him. He crossed the empty room to the coffee bar and poured himself a cup.

She was gorgeous. Stunning, actually. And a bright intelligence brought light to those strangely colored eyes. They were such a deep blue they looked purple. When Cass had stood from her desk, he’d realized that they were almost the same height.

Kado shook his head and scolded himself as he strode toward the evidence room. God knew he was in no shape to handle a relationship and in reality, he didn’t even want one. Caroline had only been dead a year. Barely a year. Kado’s nostrils still flared at the phantom scent of death that had oozed from her pores as cancer had eaten her alive. He still saw her in crowds and had to stop himself from calling out to her, had to endure the rush of hope every time he spotted a petite woman with shiny, straight black hair. She was slowly leaving him, occupying his dreams less frequently these days. But he couldn’t stand the thought of losing her completely, of not loving her. Of violating her memory by noticing other women.

Unlocking the evidence room door, Kado tried to push Cass from his mind. Cass Elliot is a colleague, somebody you work with, pure and simple, he told himself as he settled behind his computer and typed in a password. Besides, a woman with those looks probably has men waiting in line. She’s out of your league and, he reminded himself, you’re not in the game anyway.

About The Devil of Light

A BIZARRE MURDER

When young Detective Cass Elliot responds to a 911 call at the home of a prominent businessman, she finds him violently murdered in the barnyard with his battered wife unconscious near the tool that killed him. Still raw from her own unsolved attack six years ago, Cass is stunned when confronted with graphic photographs scattered across their kitchen floor that lead to a shadowy sect called The Church of the True Believer.

A COVERT WEB OF LIES AND EXPLOITATION

Cass and her partner Mitch Stone delve into a cunning world of blackmail and violence – and find a cult concealed for nearly a century beneath the genteel, small town façade of Arcadia in East Texas. Their investigation triggers a brutal response from powerful men who will protect their identities at any cost. They unleash a ruthless killer whose actions create a media frenzy and destroy the fabric of trust within the police department.

A PERVASIVE EVIL

Cass and Mitch circle closer to the cult’s few members, following a slim lead into a night lit by fire. A night that begins with a blood ritual and ends with Cass holding a man’s life – or death – in her hands and struggling to walk the fine line between vengeance and justice.

Meet the author

mystery author Gae-Lynn Woods

Gae-Lynn Woods is a Texan mystery writer who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Visit Gae-Lynn’s

BestSelling Reads page   |   Amazon author page   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Google+   |   Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website   |    Blog

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Focus Friday: Avengers of Blood

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By Gae-Lynn Woods

Avengers of Blood-final fileIT WAS A BEAUTIFUL night for a killing. One of those gorgeous Southern evenings that occur only occasionally as summer draws near, cool and clear, nearly devoid of humidity. Overhead, the stars sparkled in a vast expanse of velvety sky, their shimmering brightness dimmed only by the whisper-thin gauze of smoke that hung in the nearly motionless air.

Despite the smell of terror and charred flesh, the clearing retained the cheery, slightly crazed atmosphere of a traveling carnival. The crowd had at first been pensive, watchful, but once the killing was done a sense of relief swept through the watchers. Women gossiped and tittered, drinking soda pop from bottles dotted with condensation. Children played chase through the forest of legs and took turns reenacting the murders they’d witnessed only moments earlier. Men smoked pipes and cigarettes, talking in low voices and tapping dried mud from their tired work boots.

The sheeted men nearest the fires took off their hoods and their damp faces gleamed in the flames. People pulled back to give the photographer room and a bright burst stung the night. At last the crowd drifted away, women calling children and fussing at their husbands to hurry home. A few engines cranked in the still air, but most left on foot.

The men in sheets lingered until the last of the crowd was gone and then congratulated themselves on how quickly justice could be served. A rustling startled them and one man took long strides to the side of the clearing and parted two azalea bushes bearing papery violet blooms. A filthy figure gazed up at him, face tear-streaked and snotty, a broken pencil and tattered paper clutched in one grimy hand.

It took a moment, but at last he recognized the child. He leaned over and snatched the paper, calling to his companions. They towered over the tiny body, muttering to one another and turning the drawing to the firelight to see crude representations of the horror they had wrought. At last one of them lifted a foot clad in a pointy-toed cowboy boot and nudged the child toward the road.

“Get on home, now,” he said. “And don’t you ever talk about what you seen. You understand? Don’t draw no more pictures, neither.” The child looked up at him with dark eyes that pierced his soul. He blustered on. “What happened here tonight can just as easily happen to you. Easier, even. ’Cause there ain’t nobody to look out for you now.”

He watched as the child scurried away. Once out of reach, it turned and looked back at them with a burning gaze, searching their faces. He lifted his foot again and the child fled, swallowed quickly by the night. The laughter of the others was at first hesitant, as if they too had felt the intensity of the child’s hate. But the sound swelled and gained confidence and at last he joined in, hoping to obscure the vague uneasiness settling in his gut.

About Avengers of Blood

A deadly game of cat and mouse is playing out in Forney County…

Detective Cass Elliot is still on suspension after killing a fellow officer and Sheriff Hoffner refuses to sign her release papers. But when four people are murdered in one night, one with the exceptional brutality of a lynching, the Medical Examiner side-steps Hoffner to hire Cass and loan her to Forney County’s overstretched police department.

As Cass and her partner investigate, they realize that three of the murders were committed by the same person but find no connection between the victims. Their frustration intensifies when another victim survives and disappears instead of coming to the police.

Sheriff Hoffner is frantic about anonymous letters claiming one of his star officers is dirty, and Cass suspects a link to the current crimes. The pieces fall together when she uncovers the true identity of the man who was lynched, revealing connections between the victims, the killer, and an unpunished crime committed nearly fifty years ago.

About Gae-Lynn Woods

Gae-Lynn WoodsGae-Lynn Woods is a Texan who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Visit her:

And follow her on Twitter @gaelynnwoods

 

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Moon – A Story by Caleb Pirtle III

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Caleb Pirtle III, bestselling author of Secrets of the Dead and Golgotha Connection

Caleb Pirtle III

There was no doubt about it. You could ask anyone who walked the streets of Pitner’s Junction, if perchance the community had any streets. The world was flat. If you stood beneath the third oak tree to the left, just behind cemetery and on the far side of the all-day dinner on the ground and graveyard working, you could see the edge. Every afternoon at varying times of the year, the sun simply reached the edge of it all and dropped off. I know. I was raised on the cusp of Pitner’s Junction, Texas. In fact, the only two things that ever came out of Pitner’s Junction were me and Highway 259. The “world is flat” folks stayed behind. Might as well. Couldn’t go much farther than the sunset anyway.

I kept looking for the edge.

Didn’t find it.

And pretty much forgot about the gospel of my raising until I happened to run across a bunch of stargazers, vortex sitters, and all-around wunderkinds who called themselves, wrapped in a veil of reverence, the Flat Earth Society.

I knew them well.

Didn’t recognize any of them.

But I must have grown up with their kinfolks.

The Flat Earth Society, I’m told, was one of the first organizations that had the audacity and gall to accuse NASA of faking the moon landings.

Didn’t go there, the flat earthers said.

Couldn’t go there.

Too far.

Too high.

Gas was cheap, but there wasn’t enough of it.

And, besides, the solar flares, solar winds, cosmic rays, coronal mass ejections, and Van Allen radiation made such a trip absolutely impossible.

If Flash Gordon hadn’t really gotten to the planets, then Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin didn’t either. Just like Flash and the evil Ming the Merciless, the flat earthers swore, Neil, Buzz, and the boys staged it all on a Hollywood movie lot.

All of America was afraid that Russia would beat us to the moon.

The race for space was spinning out of control.

Cold war prestige was at stake.

So the government did what the government does best.

NASA faked the whole thing.

I heard it differently. Same message. Different voice.

I happened to be in a beer joint on the outskirts of Chatsworth, Georgia, the day Neil Armstrong made that small step for man and giant leap for mankind.  The beer joint looked pretty much the way it was supposed to in the middle of a hot, muggy, thirsty afternoon. Dark. Cool. A naked light bulb hung from the ceiling. Another one above the bar. Sawdust on the floor. It had not been swept out in a while. Maybe never. Keep it dark. Can’t see the dirt. Dust in your throat? Wash it down with a beer.

The room was crowded and far too quiet.

Men sat hunkered over their tables, leaning on their elbows, their gimme caps pushed back, staring, never blinking, at an old black and white television set stuck on the back wall above the bar.

The picture was blurry.

No one cared.

They were watching the once and glorious achievement of their lifetime. A lunar module had landed on the surface of the moon, some place called, if the man on the tee-vee could be believed, Tranquility Base, and they had seen it with their own eyes, which called for another beer.

They had feared a crash. They were afraid they would be watching good men die a long way from home. A devout feeling of hope and pride had been dimmed by the shadow of impending doom. Their pulse quickened. Their nerves quivered. Their shoulders were rock solid tense.

But there it was.

The Eagle had landed, which called for another beer.

The beer bottles were sweating. So were the gentlemen of Chatsworth.

A farmer sat alone at the far end of the bar. He had been withered by time, cold rains, famine, hard work, and an occasional bout with the lovesick blues.  He wore bib-overalls and a straw hat. He had not bothered to remove it. He had been sipping on the same beer for much of the afternoon. He knew all about the advances of technology in a world grown too modern for him. He had broke new ground behind a mule, then astride a tractor. He had watched the world around him slowly change, usually against his will.

He had never embraced change, but he had accepted it.Golgotha Connection, by bestselling author Caleb Pirtle III, cover image

But this was too much.

He nodded toward the television. “That’s not happening,” he said.

The gentlemen of Chatsworth were stunned. Not a sound could be heard, with the possible exception of another beer being opened.

“Somebody’s lying to you,” he said.

Every eye turned toward him.

“Ain’t nothing but a hoax,” he said.

The gentlemen of Chatsworth frowned.

“How do you figure that?” I asked.

The old man took a long, slow draw on his beer bottle, wiped the froth from his mouth, and studied the blurry black and white screen one more time. He spoke with the deep, growling voice of a mountain oracle.

“We can’t get pictures from the moon,” he said. “Hell, we can’t even get pictures from Atlanta.”

The heads nodded. Somebody ordered another beer.

The man wearing the stained white apron behind the bar turned off the television. Might as well, he thought. Couldn’t argue with common sense.

Tune in tomorrow for Charity Parkerson, bestselling author of The Danger With Sinners (Sinners Series) or Paul (Undefeated Series), whose essay, “From 25 to 25,000 – How I Became a Bestselling Author” is sure to inspire all you closet writers!

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