You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (August 18, 2012)
***Special thanks to Karen Arnpriester for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Visit the author's website.
Visit the book website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Charley knew what God wanted from her. She was willing to trust and obey as she protected the others in the bank. Then He would save her from her captor. But she could not have anticipated the rage that would be unleashed in response to her prayers and her faith in God.
Raider was desperate, hardened, and his past had set the stage for an insane game of survival and spiritual warfare. The vendetta was in motion and Charley discovered that she needed her God to provide extraordinary miracles to keep her alive.
List Price: $30.35
Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (August 18, 2012)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
He tried many times to escape, but Itchy couldn’t figure out how to undo the latch from the inside. How long will she keep me in here this time? he wondered.
It was a simple mistake; he hadn’t meant to see Mrs. Anton naked. Itchy was just hanging out with his best friend, Marty Anton. When he threw open the unlocked bathroom door to relieve himself, he saw her standing in the tub. She hadn’t removed the towel from the bar yet and Itchy saw all of her nakedness. Itchy quickly looked down and fell backwards as he scrambled to get away. The screams from Mrs. Anton blasted his ears as he peed his pants. The uncontrolled release was horrific for a fourteen-year-old boy.
Mrs. Anton was enraged. She threw on her robe and telephoned his Aunt Rose, screaming that Itchy was a pervert and Rose needed to keep him away from her son. She insisted that he would corrupt Marty and turn him into a “Peeping Tom.” Itchy panicked and ran from the house as Marty’s mom shrieked at him to never come back.
Itchy was afraid to go home. He knew that his Aunt Rose would use his latest misfortune to punish and shame him, but if he didn’t go home right away, the punishment would be even harsher. She had a way of stacking sins on top of each other. He could already hear her screeches in his head. “It wasn’t bad enough that you lusted after a grown woman, but then you refused to face your foul sin and suffer the consequences. God sees your filthy heart. You can’t run away from Him!”
When Itchy slunk into the house through the back door, Aunt Rose was waiting for him. She looked at his soiled crotch and clucked with distain. Itchy didn’t understand that his Aunt had mistakenly assumed the worst. The wooden paddle that she used for pulling bread from the oven was spinning in her hands. He knew what was coming next – he unzipped his pants and they, along with his boxers, fell around his ankles. She nodded toward the kitchen table and he placed both hands flat on the surface. The beating was vicious this time. He tried not to cry, but the repeated swings of the paddle became unbearable. The tears rolled down his cheeks and puddles formed on the table.
While he endured her wrath, she quoted scripture to him. She always pulled scriptures out of context and Itchy was convinced that God expected him to suffer to be worthy of forgiveness and salvation. Aunt Rose would alternate scripture with demeaning statements, telling him that his pain was only a small measure of what he deserved. He was born a bastard to a mother who was cheap and easy with filthy men. Aunt Rose would do whatever it took to save him from himself.
After Aunt Rose felt the punishment had suited the crime, she stopped and opened the cabinet door to the vegetable bin, an outdated storage area for fresh produce. It was the cell Itchy must endure until he repented for his wrongdoings. Itchy carefully pulled up his pants. There was no longer enough room to sit, as there had been when he was smaller. He had to squat, bend over, and squeeze in to fit. The blisters on his backside were on fire and wet. Itchy was sure they were bleeding. This was typical when she suspected his punishable infraction was sexually motivated, which was more frequent as he became older.
The door closed and latched from the outside. There was no air circulation except for small holes drilled into the cabinet door. Originally, they had been drilled to keep the produce from rotting as quickly. Now, the holes were small windows into a kitchen filled with pain and horror.
Each time Aunt Rose walked past the bin, she would kick the door and scream at him to pray louder for forgiveness. This was the angriest she had ever been. It was quite evident to Itchy that she felt he had crossed over to a new level of depravity. When he was young, his prayers were heartfelt. He wanted to be clean, but after years of belittlement and reinforcement of his undeserving and vile nature, his prayers were hollow and solely to pacify this enraged woman. His knees and legs began to ache and his muscles throbbed.
Aunt Rose’s rantings over the years filled in the holes of Itchy’s history. His mother, June, had become pregnant at the age of sixteen. She was the youngest and the wild child in her family of staunch believers. She had run off to California with Itchy’s daddy, Arthur, who was seventeen. They didn’t have the decency to get married and lived in lustful sin. His father was blonde, handsome, and charming, like all demons were, and he’d tempted June beyond her strength to resist.
When Itchy was only six years old, his mother escaped and left Itchy to survive his father’s brutality alone. No one heard from June again and Itchy didn’t know if she was alive or dead. Most days, he hoped she was dead, a long, painful, lonely death.
Itchy had earned his name by contracting a severe case of head lice when he was young. His father’s abuse included extreme neglect. When he did go to school, the kids were relentless with their taunting. Itchy hated the nickname, but hated his real name even more. His real name, Arthur, was his father’s name.
Eventually, his father was arrested for manslaughter, a bar fight gone bad, and the police officers took Itchy to Langston Hall. Most kids would be scared in a children’s home, but Itchy felt safe there. He had three meals a day, a clean bed, and clean clothes. He didn’t make many friends but there was one girl who touched him deeply. Her name was Pagne. He didn’t know her for long, but she would always be in his heart, one of the three females he would ever trust.
The county eventually located his widowed Aunt Rose and she begrudgingly agreed to take Itchy to live with her. “It is the Christian thing to do,” she told the social worker. He was flown back to Boston to live with her and her son, Darrell. Itchy was excited to have a new home and an older brother. Darrell, however, was indifferent. He was too busy avoiding his mother’s wrath and quickly learned that having Itchy around proved to be an advantage. If he lay low, Itchy caught most of the hell.
Before arriving, Itchy had no idea of the loathing his aunt harbored or the horror that awaited him.
Chapter 1 - Friday
When Charley Abrams pulled into the bank’s parking lot, Charley was relieved to find it empty. There was no one at the ATM. When she walked up to the machine, she saw an electronic message on the screen announcing that the ATM was offline for programming updates and would be offline for several hours. Charley was annoyed. She hated going into the bank for simple transactions. There was always a wait, but she needed to deposit a large check today. When she approached the reflective doors, Charley stared at her reflection. She had become her mother over the years. There were wrinkles, but they weren’t deeply etched like a lot of women her age. Her body build was always meaty, gradually heavier as she got older. She liked to say that she wasn’t overweight, just too short. When asked how tall she wasn’t, Charley would smile and say, “four-twelve.”
Charley kept her hair in a spiky short style and had recently allowed it to remain gray. This was a big adjustment in her appearance. Though she had watched the face of an old woman slowly appear as the years passed, she still admired her eyes. They were large and gray. They weren’t as bright as they used to be, but still unique. Charley had never liked her mouth. She had thin lips and always envied women with pouty, full mouths. She had entertained the idea of Botox injections when younger, but it required needles and that was a definite deal breaker. When she pulled open the mirror of herself, she was glad to see that she was the only customer in the bank.
When her transaction was complete, Charley tucked her receipt into her pocket. As she turned toward the door to leave, she heard a loud commotion and looked up. Charley saw two men with ball caps pulled down low, bandanas over their mouths and noses, pushing a young woman through the doors. One of the men shoved the woman and she fell to the floor, landing on her hands and knees. Charley grimaced with sympathy pain. She had fallen recently and remembered how it had jarred her whole body. The second man, who was quite tall and had a large build, turned the dead bolt, pointed a gun at the group of tellers, and bellowed, “Everyone behind the counter, take three steps back with your hands over your head! Now!” The shorter man grabbed the fallen woman’s arm and drug her further into the bank, then snarled at her to lay down flat on the floor.
“You,” the larger man said, glaring at Charley, “get down on the floor.” Charley slid down the front of the counter and sat down. “Down flat, face on the floor,” the man screamed at her. Charley quickly lay down, staring at the floor.
The shorter man, thin but muscular, moved behind the counter and raised his gun so everyone saw it. He also had a large, open black garbage bag. He swiftly moved from station to station, making each of the tellers step up and open their drawer. The money moved quickly from the drawers into the bag.
Once the drawers were emptied, the robber behind the counter herded all the tellers around to the front. Charley hoped that someone had triggered the silent alarm. She sensed the movement of bodies close to her as the tellers were told to lie flat on the floor. She was curious, but didn’t look up. She wondered why the bank didn’t have an armed security guard. Weren’t all banks supposed to have a guard? If she survived this, she would find a new bank with big guards and big guns.
The shorter man made his way to the doors while pointing the gun at the group of people on the floor. “Let’s get going!” he hollered at his companion.
“Man, we gotta go. Now!”
“We got time… wanna check the vault,” the taller man threw back as he knelt by the teller closest to Charley.
“Who can open the vault?” he sputtered as he grabbed the young woman by her hair. His other hand held the gun next to her skull and tapped it hard. Charley heard her yelp in pain.
“The manager, Mr. Mitchell.” Since there was only one man working in the bank, it was obvious who he was. Charley heard the masked man jump up and move to her right. She positioned her head slightly so she was able to see where the manager was lying. The robber grabbed him and pulled him up, holding the gun next to his chest. The tension was building as the shorter man continued to scream and curse at his partner who was dragging the manager back to the vault.
“Shut up! We’re almost done here,” the taller man yelled back.
Charley slowly shifted herself to get a better view of the room. The woman next to her looked like she was going to pass out. Charley smiled, hoping it would reassure her. Charley saw the man closest to the door. She had time to take in details now. Muscular, but not big, jeans, Nike tennis shoes, long sleeved blue shirt, red print bandana, and an Oakland Raiders cap. It was too hot to be wearing a long sleeved shirt. Charley assumed he had tattoos he was covering, but enough skin was showing to know that he was Caucasian. His hair was tucked under the hat, but a little blonde still showed. She decided to label that one Raider.
Once the vault was opened, the manager turned to face the bank robber. In that moment, the bandana slipped down off the robber’s face. The two men locked eyes and the realization that the robber could now be identified registered with both men. The robber’s eyes narrowed with an evil determination. Mr. Mitchell had only one option, to take the gun.
Charley jerked as she heard struggling and then the blast of the gun as it went off. She saw Raider move to the center of the bank and lift his gun. She squeezed her eyes shut, a natural reaction, as another shot rang through the bank. She heard the loud wail of a man and then the thud as he went down. “Darrell!” Raider bellowed. Charley heard another man cursing and moaning. “Damn it, Darrell, what did you do?”
Raider demanded that they all slide to the left wall and sit with their hands on their heads as he made his way to the counter. He kicked the young woman he’d pushed down earlier and screamed at her to move over with the others. She managed to make it to the wall without throwing up. Raider kept his gun pointed at the stricken group of women. He looked over the counter and saw the manager in a crumpled heap and Darrell sitting on the floor. His hand clutched his chest as the blood oozed between his fingers.
“Holy crap, Darrell. How bad is it?”
“Bad enough to kill me I expect,” Darrell managed to say with sarcasm. Darrell tried to stand but fell onto his back. “Get the hell outta here, I’m done.”
“You ass, I should leave you,” Raider snarled.
Raider moved around the end of the counter to get to Darrell, still trying to keep all the hostages in view. His partner lay on his back, unblinking eyes staring at the ceiling. He was obviously dead. Raider looked at the front doors, his expression frantic, like that of a trapped animal looking for a way to escape.
Charley, trying to make sense of what happened, assumed that Mr. Mitchell had grabbed the gun, killed the robber in the scuffle, and was shot by Raider before he got off another round. The coppery smell of blood filled the bank.
When Raider came around to the front of the counter, he saw several cars pulling in. They appeared to be customers. Charley could see that he had no idea what to do now. “In and out quick, you stupid idiot,” he mumbled under his breath.