Thursday, January 17, 2013

Try Not to Burn

Excerpt from chapter one of Try Not to Burn:

“It's a bittersweet day for San Francisco, ladies and gentlemen. Our long, city-wide nightmare has finally drawn to a close, but it did not come without a heavy cost. News comes out of the San Francisco Police Department that renowned serial killer Victor Gregory Rellik has just been shot dead, mere moments ago, on the corner of Geary and Webster. Two police officers were on the scene at the time of the shooting. Details are still scarce as of this moment, but what we do know is that one of the police officers—his name has not yet been disclosed to the press—has been shot in the head and has been rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

“His partner, reported to be former police Lieutenant Francis Takeda, demoted after his alleged involvement in the Douglas Minton police brutality case, is being lauded as a hero by eyewitnesses at the scene.

“We go now to Carol Daly, live on the corner where Rellik's Reign was brought to its shocking conclusion. Carol, what have you been able to learn?”

“Thanks, Jackie. I have two men standing by who saw the entire grisly event unfold. We'll get their thoughts in just a moment. But first, I have just received word on the condition of Officer Takeda's partner, a twenty-two year old man who, I'm sorry to say, has now became Victor Rellik's thirty-fifth...and final...victim.



Brandon Morales saw only darkness. Frozen, unflinching darkness. A bottomless pit that had swallowed him whole. The blackness existed all around him, choking him, closing in on him, while at the same time extending for as far as the eye could possibly see.

There lurked no light in the blackness, no point where he could see a seam or crack in the wall of endless shadow. No place he could use to regain his bearings, to work out which side was up and which side was down.

He tried to reach out with his hand toward the dark wall. He saw the blackness tremble, like ripples in a stream of water. But he couldn’t see his hand. Couldn’t feel it, either.

He couldn’t feel anything at all. He couldn’t blink. Couldn’t shout out. Couldn’t even feel his breath filling his lungs.

Fear yanked at the corners of his mind, resolute panic endeavoring to seize control of his thoughts.

Had he stopped breathing? Was he dying?

Was this what it felt like to die?

Was it already too late? Is this how he would spend the rest of eternity?

There were so many questions, but no voice to speak them, and the darkness had no answers.

He thought back to the last moment he remembered before the world went black.

He thought back to Geary Boulevard, located a few blocks west of San Francisco's Tenderloin district. The rust-flecked mint-green coupe he and his partner pulled over. He remembered stepping out of the squad car into the still summer air. Walking toward the car alone, the sunlight glancing into his eyes off the coupe's rear window.

Brand started to inform the driver why they pulled him over, that he had a brake light out. Nothing major. Nothing that should have been a problem, just a friendly word of warning. You should look into fixing that. Thanks. See you later.

Then the man’s face tugged at Brand's memory. He’d seen that scowl before. He’d seen the scar on the man’s lower lip before. He’d known him somehow, but he didn’t know why or how.

Then it hit him. The realization. It must have been plastered all over his face. Brand started to reach for his gun, the order to freeze forming in his mouth.

Too slowly, though. Far too slowly. The serial killer was already raising his hand toward the opened window.

He was smiling. The fucker had actually started smiling.

The man held something in his hand, but the object was blurry in Brand’s shattered memory. Not much of a mystery now, though.

Brand never even saw the flash of the gun. Everything just went black.


And that was it.

Brand had never felt this alone in his entire life.

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