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Tommy McClure, the nastiest man in Sevierville, is dying. No one denies it, especially his dead daddy, Big Ray, a renegade soul recently escaped from the blackness of The In Between. He gives Tommy an ultimatum--change his miserable ways or earn himself a ticket straight to Hell.
He took a step toward her. “Ruby, I been getting lazy.” He took the end of her scarf in his hand and drew her closer to him. “And you been doing shit you ain’t supposed to be doin’.”
She was right in front of him. He could smell the tequila on her breath. He didn’t allow her to drink. She knew that drinking turned perfectly nice ladies into whores. He ground his teeth together and fought the urge to wrap the belt around her neck. “You got something you want to say to me, baby doll?”
Her gaze stayed on the ground. A small bead of sweat formed by her brow.
“Tommy, I was with Sue Ann, playing bunko. You said that was all right.”
He took his free hand and brought it up, smacking her directly below the eye. “Don’t you fucking lie to me. You been drinking with half of Sevierville.”
He cracked her again. The force of the blow sent her down to the floor. She put her hand up to protect her face and started scooting backwards toward the door. He grabbed the belt with both hands. His breathing was heavy. His health had really taken a toll on his strength. He had to hit her hard and fast before he lost his will to fight. Once she saw him weak, he was done—she’d never follow his rules again. He had to hit her with the belt. He had to make her understand.
The damn spots in his vision came back. Right there in the corner of his eye. He saw the man. This time the man’s shape was darker, stronger than it had been in the kitchen, and it had a voice.
“Don’t do it, boy! Can’t you see that’s what they want?”
Jesus fucking Christ, it was Big Ray. Big Ray, his mean son of a bitch father, had come back to haunt him. He blinked rapidly, trying to make the shape go away. The scratching in the vents grew louder. The register rattled. It’s your brain, Tommy. You must be closer to death than you thought. It was a brain tumor, or some kind of a stroke—had to be. He looked at Ruby, still sitting there on the floor and looking like a goddamn deer about to get run over. He raised the belt.
The shadow of Big Ray came at him. He wanted to move—thrash at it with the belt, but he was paralyzed. The shadow hit him hard, tossing him back into his chair like a rag doll. His body felt cold the moment it hit, the type of cold that made you move slowly, like a bee dying off at the end of summer. The belt dropped to the floor and landed between his chair and the register.
His body was stuck, but he could move his eyes. For the first time he saw the shadow in front of him. It was still a shadow, just a shape of a man. Except it had these eyes. They glowed a deep red somewhere inside the head of dark black.
Ruby was still on the floor. She looked scared, but she didn’t see Big Ray. He could tell just by looking at her. She was looking through the shape and watching Tommy to see if he was going to get up and come after her again.
“You got a lot to learn, boy,” Big Ray rumbled at him. “She ain’t looking to see if you’re going to get her. She’s looking to see if you’re going to die in that chair.”
He was right. Ruby wanted him dead.
“You ain’t going nowhere tonight.”
The register rattled in protest. Big Ray pointed at the vent. “You know what those are?”
Tommy swallowed. He didn’t know what the hell had gotten into his vents, but the fact that Big Ray knew what was in there made him think it was something he didn’t want to mess with.
“That’s right, boy, those things in there are hell’s minions coming to take your soul. Every little fuck-up you commit from here on out brings them closer to your flesh. Go on... take a closer look.”
Tommy tried to focus on the vent. He couldn’t see anything at first, just the gold metal grates of the vent, but after a few moments he saw them... four sets of serrated teeth hugging the slats. The gold vent shined in the glow from the television, and tiny, jagged blades moved back and forth like little saws trying to cut through the metal. A tongue unrolled from the mouth with the teeth, moved along the floor, and searched for Tommy. It found the belt, worked its way around it, and moved closer to his legs. Big Ray moved in between him and the tongue. It sensed Big Ray and hissed in protest before scooting back into the vent.
What the fuck? Was that a snake?
“Not a snake, son, a demon. Those are the things that want to take you to hell. Lucky for you, your old man is here to tell you how to keep your sorry ass out of eternal damnation.”
Elizabeth was born and raised in Elmhurst, IL the oldest child of two professional artists. A humanitarian at heart, she found herself continually committing to projects to help others. In 1996, she started a small nonprofit organization that worked with mothers that had been diagnosed with postpartum mood disorders, called the Mother Balance Foundation. She also became involved in animal rescue, fostering and helping to adopt dogs through Chicagoland Shepherd Rescue.
Writing is a passion that has held her heart for as long as she can remember, and when asked she will tell you that there is a constant string of ideas and dialogue running through her brain. She credits her parent’s love of reading and encouragement to be a free thinker for her ability spin her ideas into stories that leave the reader breathless and blown away.
Currently Elizabeth lives in Lombard IL with her husband, five children and three German Shepherds. She works full time at a private school for children with Autism and loves every single minute of it. She spends her free time writing, dreaming up new ideas, and vacationing at her cabin in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.
“OPALS AND RUBIES is a gritty story full of rough around the edges characters you won't be able to forget. Most of all, it's deliciously scary.” ~ Norma Seely, author of MAZE OF SECRETS and the Annie Kirk Mysteries
Opals and Rubies: “I’m sure even Stephen King would have a hard time not reading this one straight through. You might want to read this during daylight hours, or after dark you’ll be wondering what that clawing noise is under your house.” ~ JoEllen Conger, Conger Books Reviews Review Rate: 5+
“Don’t start reading Opals and Rubies unless you’ve nothing else planned for the next few hours. You won’t be able to put it down.” ~ David Toft – Author of End Game, and A Gift Of Butterflies.
Book Publisher: Wings ePress
No. of Pages: 249
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