EXCERPT FROM PROLOGUE: ESCAPE TO DEATH (AVAILABLE NOW @ Amazon in PAPERBACK/KINDLE!)

escape-to-death-11068Beltane, the witches holiday, was soon breaking, and death was the only escape from danger.

Humid Hollywood night, furious neon glow muted beneath smog’s smothering cloak. From starry panorama above, a trident spear of lightning blazed down upon boulevard’s bustling traffic. Rainbows of light flickered and steadily dimmed: was there a sinister hand somewhere turning a dial? All the way out from North Hollywood, young Clover finally emerged from the cab, Chinchilla coat draped about her swan-like neck. The isolated Canyon bungalow was perched beneath a lattice of oak branches.

A chilled wind’s bellowing voice began to warn of omens, and with deliberation, Clover approached the front door. She’d heard about ‘Sister’ Lauren Silverman, about the dark soul beneath sweet veneer. In a mere three seasons, Silverman had usurped Oprah Winfrey’s grand status as queen of daytime television. A memory flashed, and she thought of her father back in Newville. She had escaped from the small town, and out to the big city, and lived to tell about it, so far. Those who couldn’t find love from their families had to run away and somehow find it somewhere else. Only now, her love came with a steep price attached, and there were many, including ‘Sister’ Silverman, willing to pay.

“This gig should be a choice payday,” Clover considered, as she reached for the silver doorknob.

Looking back over her shoulder, she saw the cab roar back down the winding canyon road, flickering tail lights swallowed into the midnight murk. Stepping inside, Clover perused the drug fueled mayhem, half-naked human zombies stumbling and drooling, bloodshot eyes fixed into blank stares. “Good, you’re finally here,” a giddy voice lisped. Startled, Clover trained ebony eyes on the pale skinned scarecrow. “Hi, I’m Daryl,” the gregarious scarecrow lisped. “Lauren is waiting for you,” he said, casting a cocaine dusted finger towards a winding staircase. “In the room, upstairs.”

Clover swept through the gathering and wobbled up the winding stairs in her candy apple red Jimmy Choo’s. Turning right at the top of the golden banister, she saw the famous face peek out from the bedroom door. “Oh yes,” Silverman gushed, smile slithering across her tanned face. “I think you’re going to be just what I need!” Proceeding into the room, Silverman quickly locked the door, azure eyes flashing like bright neon. “You want a glass of bubbly,” Silverman graciously asked, pointing to a well-stocked bar in the corner. “I’ve got some vintage Dom Perigon.” “Whatever you say sister,” Clover seductively cooed, flashing her alabaster teeth. “Because what I’ve got is just as choice.” Silverman pulled the bottle from the ice and filled a pair of frosted flutes. Clover drew close to Silverman while she poured, seductively whispering. “I’ve got something you’ll enjoy better than the vintage champagne!” Slowly, the black Chinchilla coat fell to the plush red carpet, revealing perfect pear shaped hips and long thoroughbred legs. Silverman stood shocked silent. Skin against sultry skin, they touched, tongues furiously floating behind devouring lips. Clover felt Silverman’s hand drift, fingers exploring the moist sanctuary between her parted thighs. Silverman suddenly jerked her hand away, something wasn’t right.

“Holy shit,” Silverman gasped. “You’re a god damned tranny, Jesus,”  she bellowed, eyes scorched with rage. “Crenshaw is going to pay for this,” Silverman hissed.

CRACK!

Champagne and shattered glass rained down on Clover’s head, blood seeping from the torn skin above her dark brow.

The door burst open.

“Lauren, I heard an awful commotion?”

Silverman stood over the prostitute prone on the carpet, grasping the half-shattered bottle in her hands. Crenshaw looked down at the cell phone spilled from the prostitute’s black Gucci purse. “Whatever do we do about this,” Crenshaw said, looking uncharacteristically befuddled. Feeling fear’s sinister specter beginning to steadily creep, Crenshaw suddenly knelt, feeling for a pulse. “Lauren,” he gasped. “The poor creature’s barely bloody breathing.” “Well,” Silverman sharply replied. “Soon, she won’t be. Get all the girls together Crenshaw,” she schemed. “We’re taking her deep into the Canyon oaks. And the phone, we’ll bury it with her. We’re going to cover up the evidence, forensics, you know?”

Horror steadily rimmed Crenshaw’s widening eyes as he stood looking over the gruesome scene. “Lauren,” Crenshaw gulped. “Even though I have the fire and police chief under my thumb, what if a loved one hire’s a cagey private detective? And, at any rate, just how do you propose to completely cover up the forensics, when you did the dirty deed in the house. Someone’s bound to find something, if they’re looking.” “We’ll burn the place down, of course,” Lauren explained.

Crenshaw’s mind whirled askew. It was if she were talking about something as simple as taking out the trash.

“Steinmetz won’t miss it. He only uses it as a discreet hideaway, somewhere his wife won’t find him with his whores. The accountants will record it as a tax write-off. Now, let’s go Crenshaw,” Lauren stubbornly demanded. “Just play along, and do what I ask!”

***

Kidnapped, Clover was taken far away, to some deserted canyon grotto, where swarming black robed witches tied her down with thick rope to a behemoth onyx altar. Flickering candle flames pierced midnight’s impenetrable darkness. “Let the ceremony commence,” came the commanding wail from underneath dark hooded robe. “Oh blessed Gaia,” the strained alto bellowed into the starry midnight. “We humbly present this sacrifice, that in partaking of the adrenochrome, magic elixir of eternal life, we might be accepted into holy fellowship. To be reborn from your protective womb of mother earth.”

Fevered chants grew to a bellowing apex. Grasped within white knuckled grip, a deathly sharp blade hoisted heavenward. Breathless moment, and the blade descended upon the squirming sacrifice, shimmering in shards of scattered moonlight. Clover twitched and began to somehow gain back consciousness.

“Am I in hell already,” she wondered.

Stark recognition flashed in her eyes, bloodied head throbbing while terror’s adrenaline madly raced. With great force, the blade plunged, renting naked ebony flesh, imprisoned in sheets of cold sweat. Echoes of her pained wails were swept away, carried by a chilled zephyr to a ring of tall oaks bending boughs. Blood gushed into the awaiting chalice passed from one set of hungering lips to the next. Until, finally, all were sated. Gasping last breaths, an astonished Clover suddenly hovered over the scenes mad mayhem, watching as wild torch flame engulfed the blood drenched body. Merrily, the coven danced rings around the flaming pyre.

Later, she watched as the man named Crenshaw supervised a trio of lackeys burying the charred remains in the center of a ring of tall oaks. “What do you want to do with the phone Mr. Crenshaw,” asked one of the hulking lackeys hoisting a shovel. “Bury it with the rest, under the oaks. Lauren wants it that way, something about a ley line and the blessing of bloody mother Gaia,” Crenshaw sarcastically suggested.

Clover found this fascinating, she was there with living humans, still able to observe everything. And yet, she couldn’t interact with them, as if some invisible line or barrier had been drawn. But, what was it this British guy, Crenshaw, said about a ley line? “I’ve got to find a way to break through,” she thought. Somehow, death allowed her to notice things the living could not, or seemed at least oblivious. She watched the workman hoisting shovels in to the dark loam, lowering her remains into the shallow hole. Then, one of them tossed her cell phone into the open grave before they sealed it over with some boulders collected from nearby. “I’d say it’s done, Mr. Crenshaw,” one of the workman grunted, tossing one last clump of dirt. “Very well gentlemen,” he acknowledged, sighing with relief. “Lauren shall certainly be pleased.”

“At last, the pain is over now,” Clover happily thought.

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