You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
The Writers Cafe Press (January 5, 2009)
Sue Dent hails from Mississippi. She graduated from Mississippi College in 1983. Since graduating she’s sold computers, taught computer classes and has worked as a Technical Specialist IV for the Mississippi Department of Natural Resources.
Forever Richard is the second book in the Thirsting for Blood series. The prequel, Never Ceese was short-listed for a Bram Stoker Award and also voted the ACFW’s book club choice for April 2007. Ms Dent is currently working on the third book in the series.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: The Writers Cafe Press (January 5, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
The day laborers loitered on corners hoping for work in the fields—backbreaking work that paid little. Not the type of work they wanted but because most of them lived in the country illegally, they hadn’t a lot of choice. The laborers worked long hours for little pay, which was attractive to employers—so attractive they’d risk breaking the law to hire them.
The men had to watch for Border Patrol agents, so they scrutinized every gringo with a careful eye.
José’s buddies squinted in the direction he’d indicated. Raul pushed himself off the wall where they sat. “I thought you saw him leave town—for good.”
“Yeah,” Antonio seconded. “Qué tal? You can’t see good or something? Maybe you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
For several weeks they’d watched this stranger. No one knew when he’d arrived or how long he planned on staying. They did know they wanted him gone. Both a gringo and an outsider—the combination usually meant trouble.
José watched the giant of a man approach. His long black duster billowed; his boots stirred up a dust storm around him. José boldly took a step forward. Raul watched and his lips curled into a smirk. Who did José think he was kidding anyway?
“What you gonna do, hombrecito? The little man gonna take the big man on? He’ll squash you like that little bug.”
José, desperate to earn respect among his peers, ignored the comment and squared his shoulders.
* * *
The small immigrant town of Rio Lobos could have easily been a mirage. Surrounded by dry, flat desert, like the desert he’d spent the past two days walking through, he considered this possibility. Not until he stepped onto solid pavement did he believe otherwise.
Heavy boots marked each step as he moved along. His long duster no longer billowed but flapped freely. He’d tucked his left sleeve into a front coat pocket to prevent it from blowing about but with no left arm inside, the sleeve hung slack.
In town, he stepped onto a sidewalk. Worn and beaten by the elements, sections of it were in dire need of repair—the curbs, crumbling chunks of concrete. The entire town needed a facelift. Colorful pennants, strung about and flapping in the hot, arid breeze did little to disguise this.
The most modern building was the bank. It sat on the adjacent corner and boasted a display below the bank name that alternated time and temperature: 9:47 AM and a scorching 97 degrees. Sweat beaded and rolled down into his thick beard. He scratched at it but stopped short of complaining. After all, the beard had offered his face some protection against the stark rays of the blazing desert sun. Yet, a curse for the one responsible for his present condition was never far from his lips.
Blasted werewolf! If it hadn’t been for the creature, he wouldn’t have to worry about hair that grew twice as fast as normal. The bite wasn’t the only thing to worry about when battling a werewolf.
His stomach growled. Two days had passed since he’d eaten anything. The five young migrant workers on the corner watched him arrive and stared belligerently as he drew near. One of the five took an aggressive step forward. The stranger slowed when he saw the young worker but walked on by. No one followed.
La Tienda sat next to the laundromat. The tantalizing aroma of authentic Mexican cuisine lured him across the street.
Those standing around the entrance scattered. Startled patrons inside moved as far away as possible as he stood between them and the door. Mothers gathered their small children. The young lady who worked the counter wore a nametag, Maria. She stifled a scream and backed up against the wall. Someone hissed the word gringo and he understood.
“Aye, gringo,” he said, his Scottish accent strong. “I get that. I’m different. But I don’t want any trouble.”
Trapped in bodies that wanted to run, a dozen pairs of eyes watched him go about his business. Careful not to make any sudden moves and frighten the patrons further, he walked slowly to the counter and gathered up foil-wrapped burritos from beneath a heat lamp. One by one, he placed them in a deep pocket of his coat.
“See,” he told them. “I just want to eat . . . and now I’m going to pay.” He reached into his pocket for cash but had to guess at what he owed. Maria wasn’t talking. He laid down a ten, grabbed a styrofoam cup and filled it with coffee, then headed to a group of tables and chairs near the back of the store and sat. A mass exodus followed as anxious patrons darted out. Maria disappeared into the back.
A ceiling fan warbled overhead and kept the hot air circulating. He set his coffee down and took the burritos from his pocket. He devoured the first one in no time. After a few more bites of another, he could finally think about more than his next meal—like the events of the previous evening.
Tobias had eluded him for years, but he hadn’t given up looking. The werewolf had information and he was desperate to hear it. After nearly a century of traipsing across continents—Europe, Asia and now North America—he’d finally found him.
Tobias knelt and drank from a stream, his shirt beside him. The moon’s glow heightened the appearance of well-defined muscle. Tobias could easily overtake him. He had to move with care.
He took a cautious step closer, pushed the fabric of his duster back giving him easy access to the pistol-grip sawed-off shotgun holstered on his thigh.
Tobias tensed; he sniffed the air—his cupped hands froze in mid-drink. His head turned a sliver to stare at the abstract reflection in the stream. The stranger drew his weapon and in one fluid motion Tobias stood and turned. Eyes black and narrowed, his nose wrinkled at the odor of silver.
“Aye, did ye think I’d come unprepared?” When Tobias didn’t answer he asked, “Do ye speak English, lad?”
Tobias tilted his head, his thick brows furrowed in confusion. Maybe his accent confused, so he worked to tame it before speaking again. This time Tobias nodded.
“Then tell me why ye have run from me all these years.” He kept the shotgun level. “All I ever wanted was to ask some questions.” Why had Tobias let me sneak up on him tonight? Maybe it’s a trap? He pressed the gun barrel against the chest of the werewolf. “Ye don’t have friends around waiting to pick me off, do ye? If so, then ye should know—I’ll kill ye first.”
The breath of the werewolf turned to vapor in the cooler night air. “Tobias alone.” Stilted werewolf English, but still English. “Tobias wait for you. Tobias need—help. Help Tobias.”
Stunned eyes stared back. “Help Tobias? Away with ye! Why should I help when ye have been running from me for so long?”
Tobias glanced over his shoulder and found the moon where it hung, crescent in shape. “Tobias forget.”
“Tobias forget?” He followed Tobias’s gaze then nodded. “Ahh, Tobias forget—forgotten how to become the wolf. Ye have gone too long without transforming.” They never saw the danger until it was too late. “Yet ye remember ye need the moon, don’t ye . . . to draw the blood up, to get things going.”
Tobias turned back to face him. “You help Tobias remember more.”
As a subtle reminder, he shoved the gun barrel against Tobias’ chest. “Tell me what I want to know. Besides, what makes ye think I can help?” He could help, of course. But he didn’t give this information away freely. He didn’t need every werewolf who’d forgotten tracking him down.
“You help Gideon.”
His expression fell. “Great. Gideon shared.” Even after he promised that he wouldn’t.
“Help Tobias like you help Gideon.”
His eyes narrowed. “Aye, but first, ye pay my price. Tell me. You know the werewolf Joachim. Ye ran with his pack. What became of him? Where is he now?”
“Joachim? Joachim is no more.”
The words hit him hard. All these years of waiting, hoping—it couldn’t be true. “Ye lie!” he growled. He had to be. He moved in closer to Tobias and forced the end of the gun under his chin. “Ye’ll tell me the truth or I’ll blow your head clean off!”
“Tobias show you.”
“All right.” He brought the gun back down to chest level and allowed Tobias to put an open palm to his forehead.
The first image: two wolves thrashing it out, teeth bared and bloodied, eyes blazing with intent. It ended when one of the wolves went down and she rushed forward. He gasped and Tobias removed his hand.
“She killed Joachim,” Tobias spat out. “She the reason he is no more.”
“Ye will not speak of her like that. Ye won’t!”
“Joachim is no more because of her! He fight Zade for her.”
“Where is she now? Ye have to know.”
Tobias reached into a pocket, took out a trinket on a thin chain and held it up.
A lump formed in his throat; moisture played in the corner of each eye. “Where’d ye get that, lad? Where in the world did ye get that?”
“Tobias take it from Joachim.”
He batted back the moisture to regain some composure. “Doesn’t prove anything. Ye still haven’t told me where she is or if she is.”
“Hold tight. If she is, you know. If she isn’t, you know too.”
He considered this. “Aye, but I’ll need my hand for that and I canna say I trust ye enough to holster my weapon. But—” he said, “if ye hold the locket—maybe that will work.”
Tobias placed his left palm back to the stranger’s forehead and held the trinket tight in his other hand.
Images flashed. A castle, a feeling. “Aye, I see her. She’s alive.” He furrowed his brow. “. . . sort of.” Tobias took his hand away. “Now put that necklace in my breast pocket.”
“You help Tobias?” the werewolf replied.
“Aye, of course.” After all, that was the deal. He couldn’t use the information himself. He wasn’t cursed. But, having the information and the ability to share it—on occasion there had been a definite advantage to that.
He’d have to holster the shotgun to free up his hand to initiate the action. “This is going to be bit tricky,” he admitted, not certain he wanted to risk putting his weapon away and give up the advantage. But Tobias seemed ready to cooperate. He put his apprehension aside and slid the gun back into its holster.
With his hand on Tobias’ forehead, the flow of information could begin. Several attempts to get things going ended in failure. What was wrong?
“Ye block me. I canna help if ye block me.”
With no more coercion than that, Tobias let his mental guard down.
“Aye, that’s better.” He’d helped several other werewolves remember the way. Some took the information quickly. Some didn’t. Often he could help speed things up by focusing. He closed his eyes but they shot back open when he felt sharp claws dig into his wrist. Tobias had already begun the transformation.
“Aahh!” He fought the instinct to pull away. Tobias could take his only arm if he wasn’t careful. The pressure increased. “For the love of God,” he exclaimed.
Tobias stiffened and his hand jerked before he fell backwards onto the ground. The stranger ratcheted his shotgun from his holster. “Aye. That’d be a word ye canna tolerate.”
On the ground, Tobias continued the rapid transformation—the human form faded further until the new looked at home on all fours. Soon, it sprinted off into the woods.
“Good riddance,” he yelled out after him, “you ungrateful beast.”
* * *
The migrant workers still loitered. The same young man who’d shown aggression the first time moved directly in his path.
When he angled to go around, the guy matched him step for step. Dark intimidating eyes met his. “I don’t want any trouble,” he said. “I just want to get by.” He searched the young man’s face for any sign of compromise.
“You gotta pay to get by, gringo.”
That word again. “I can’t give ye what I don’t have.”
A quick look over his shoulder to the others and the young man tensed his forearms. “Well, you better come up with something or you’ll have to deal with us, right, muchachos?”
Arms crossed, they nodded.
“All right,” he said. “I do have one thing.” He reached into a pocket and drew out his hand, closed. Slowly, he opened it to reveal—nothing. In another instant, his palm covered the young man’s forehead and the ringleader sank to the ground, unconscious.
The others backed away. “¡Él lo mató!” he heard one say before they all broke and ran.
“Nay,” he yelled after them. “He’s not hurt. It’s not what ye think.”
It was pointless to explain further. They’d disappeared around the corner. He sighed deep and pulled the young man along by an arm. He left him to rest under the shade of an awning.
* * *
On the outskirts of town sat the Alamo Plaza Apartments, remnants of a not-so-successful motel chain that dared defy the odds. No traveler would stop here now, only locals. You could pay by the week or ten dollars an hour, maximum two. His third prepaid week at the motel. He headed straight back to his unit.
When the stranger saw another tenant leafing through mail, he quickened his pace. He was expecting something. Perhaps it had arrived. The mail had come, but no package waited. A notice stuck to his door, the “Attempted Delivery” box marked. Tomorrow the post office would try again. He pushed past disappointment and went inside. Calling the post office did little good. The mail truck with his package was still out making deliveries and wouldn’t return until after the post office closed.
He removed his duster and let it fall across a chair near the door. He placed his shotgun on a table next to the unmade bed and lay down. Two days of walking through the desert had taken its toll. He needed to rest.
Sleep came easily enough. He recalled waking up once to find the room dark. The sun had set. The next time he awoke, it was morning, 9:45 according to the digital clock on the small bedside table. He sat up and rubbed the back of his neck. He felt rested but antsy. How would he kill time until his package came? A long shower helped, as did shaving his thick beard. But he still had at least an hour.
He settled onto the end of his bed, television remote in hand, and began channel surfing. Jeopardy. He stopped to watch. The category: Famous Wars.
The unyielding presence of this single Highland regiment caused the Russians to abandon their intention of taking Balaclava.
The contestants jumped all around the correct response. “What is the Charge of the Light Brigade?” one said. “Who fought the Crimean War?” another chimed in. The third contestant merely shrugged.
His deep-set eyes misted over in remembrance. “Aye, the thin red line—what was the thin red line.”
The thunder of hooves, the smell of death, he remembered it all. To die like they did. That would be an honor. Yet dying wasn’t an option for him. Neither was aging in a timely manner. It had something to do with the battle he had with that werewolf. He did age, though much more slowly—about a year for every fifty he’d lived, but death never came. He’d been run clean through during the battle at Balaclava, an injury that left more than a few men dead where they fell. Not something he understood—in fact, quite frustrating. He switched the television off to avoid further memories.
A solid thump against his door and then a knock. “Aye. I’m here,” he said jumping to his feet. A short sprint to the door and—no one there. He looked down to see a package at his feet.
He checked the box and brought it inside. The postage showed it had come all the way from New Delhi, India. He carefully opened it. The seller had done such a fine job of packing that it took him more than a minute to reveal the knife inside.
Its pitted blade and wooden handle reinforced with bone plates attested its authenticity. He ran his fingers over the traces of Aramaic and Hebrew inscription. “Aye,” came his breathless whisper. This had to be it, the knife of the Aqedah, the very one used by Abraham on Mount Moriah. The one he’d been searching for. He’d combed sacred parchments for any mention of the knife past Abraham, looked around at Djebel Thebeyr, where a granite block, purportedly split in two by the touch of this knife, drew tourists. Still the knife had eluded him . . . until now.
“Finally.” He stared at what he held in reverent awe.
“Finally I can end this madness.”
Here's my review of this intriguing work of Christian fiction:
First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Sue Dent and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Forever Richard" to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, and I am trying to improve at being consistent in taking the time to thank these wonderfully giving individuals in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.
“Forever Richard” is Sue Dent’s thrilling sequel to her first novel in the Thirsting For Blood Series, “Never Ceese”. These novels chronicle the lives of brother and sister who have been cursed with existence as a vampire and a werewolf, but are more repentant victims of circumstance rather than hateful, cold-blooded killers. These characters have been cheated and cursed with separation from God. And now they have returned after having their souls redeemed with another action-packed adventure, full of thickly presented characters, beautiful and exotic settings and new challenges, including a fledgling vampire they are determined to bring to faith.
Sue Dent has reinvented the fantasy realm of vampirism and lycanthropy - instead of it being a permanent doom, there is the possibility of forgiveness and salvation. This is brilliant art imitating life! NO ONE is beyond God's forgiveness! Thank you, Sue, for giving me another opportunity to learn that lesson. On a more esoteric note, I enjoy the play on words in the titles of both novels – Never Ceese…Forever Richard – very witty. When I read “Never Ceese” for a blog tour almost two years ago, I wasn’t crazy about the story. But there was something about Sue Dent’s writing style that intrigued me. When she reminded me that her book had received honor in a Bram Stoker writing contest, a light bulb went off in my head: Sue Dent’s writing is very reminiscent of Stoker’s – rich, elegant and replete with meaning! I was so impressed that I wanted to give these characters another chance to win my heart in this latest novel.