So you can read my books

Friday, March 22, 2013


For Denise and her March Murder Madness:

What did Oscar Wilde write?

Some kill their love when they are young,
And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.

My murder scene is taken from my historical fantasy, ADRIFT IN THE TIME STREAM, set in 1853.

The Texas Ranger, Samuel McCord, is hunting a sadistic killer, who left the body of a young woman on the docks of Galvestion but took her face --

as a mask if Marie Laveau is to be believed.

He has tracked the killer to the transatlantic steamer, DEMETER.

And once on board, McCord finds fully a third of the passengers are undead. It is not a pleasure steamer. It is a stocked pond. But unknown to everyone, another killer has crept on board, and no one, living or undead, is safe.

As the scene opens, Samuel is his cabin, after having spent the night with the mysterious and immortal Meilori Shinseen. Her lifelong companion, Lady Inari, has intruded upon them.

She is furious with Meilori for her choice of lovers. Humans only see a beautiful Japanese aristocrat when they look upon Inari. Samuel, no longer human, sees the truth:

a chilling fox head resides upon her lovely shoulders. Things are about to come to blows when a furious knocking shakes Sam's door:

After nearly being killed at Daniel Webster's party last night, I wasn't about to answer that door unarmed. I belted my Colt on my hip. Then, I shrugged into my shoulder holster. The hilt of King Solomon’s knife touched reassuringly at the nape of my neck. Next, my fringed Thunderbird jacket and black Stetson went on, and I was ready to meet whoever was pounding on my door.

Lady Inari sighed as she studied me, adjusting my weapons. “Mortals cannot choose their nature. It is bred into them by incident and intuition. And, alas, their nature chooses their destiny for them.”
I shook my head. “I choose the path I walk not destiny.”

Her eyes gleamed in the shadows of the room. “I will remind you of that one day.”

The pounding on my door got heavier. I glared at it. But the knocking didn’t take the hint. It just kept on rapping.

I sighed, “If it’s Webster again, I think I’ll shoot him. All the parties he invites me to end up trying to kill me in some way.”

I walked to the door, pulling Solomon’s mystic blade. It was better suited to up close and personal than any of my Colts. And a mite quieter. Better for the nerves of my neighbors. And better for any innocents.

I slowly opened the door. It wasn’t Webster. That was the good news. The bad news was that it was the revenant, Prince Strasser. And he looked like he had lived a couple of unhappy centuries in the last few hours. If a revenant can be said to do such a thing as live.

His satin jabot at his throat was loose. His face was tight. His expression was creased in the hard lines of a sneer that didn’t match the uncertainty of his eyes. His purple vest was misbuttoned, so that one edge of it was lower than the other. His right arm was in a black silk sling. His left hand reached out to grab me, but I snared it.

“Only one person can nibble on my throat, Strasser, and you’re not her.”

A razored katana in velvet tones murmured behind me as Meilori spoke low, "You forget in whose presence you stand, revenant."

I turned my head slightly to flick a look her way. Slanted jade eyes that had watched Rome burn, had gazed on scented flowers blooming in Babylon's Gardens, and had smiled at the screaming sacrifices offered up to her, stabbed into Strasser. He went as pale as a revenant can get.

He glared at me as if I were the cause of his danger, then noticed Solomon’s blade in my left hand. He looked sick which said he was smarter than I had given him credit for. He worked at getting control of himself. When he looked like he had managed it, I let go of his hand.

“Where have you been all night?,” he husked.

“Minding my own business.”

His eyes were wild, hot. “You haven’t taken revenge for the fiasco at Webster's party?”

I shook my head slow. “I believe the best revenge is to live well. And that’s just what I was doing last night -- living well.”

Lady Inari laughed. And for the first time, Strasser saw her. His eyes widened.

“A menage a trois?”

Inari literally growled, “Do not task me, leech. I am not as merciful as Meilori.”

Strasser buried his face in his left hand. “Then, it was not you? It was not you. Gods, then, we are worse off than I had supposed.”

“You want to explain yourself. I’d like to eat breakfast before it’s time for lunch.”

His mouth working in pain as if his words were crushed glass, he said, “You are a policeman. Perhaps, there is some clue that I have missed. Will you come with me?”

He looked so damn desperate, and it had taken so much out of him to ask me, that I didn’t have much choice. “All right, Strasser. I’ll come with you. But where am I going?”

“Our -- my suite.”

My stomach knotted. “If it’s no longer our suite, that must mean someone’s been killed.”

Inari snorted, “You cannot kill what is already dead.”

Strasser looked like he was going to hurl himself at her. “Claus was all too alive.”

But grief took him over as he sobbed, “All too alive. Now, he’s -- he’s -- I cannot bear to put it into words.”

I clamped a hand on his shoulder. He actually cared for someone other than himself. I had judged the man wrong. I had lost too many to be cruel to someone hurting from the loss of a loved one.

“Just take me there, Prince. I’ll see if I can make some sense of whatever happened there.”

He looked haunted at me. “Claus didn’t want to go on this damned cruise. Said he had a premonition. But I insisted.”

I gave his shoulder a squeeze. “Hindsight’s alway perfect. Let’s see if we can find ourselves a murderer to make miserable.”

He nodded as if not trusting himself to speak. He led us down the passageways at a fast clip. He heard voices ahead of us and stopped, then turned up the stairs to the main deck.

“It is raining up there, but I cannot bear to face anyone this morning.”

Inari growled low in her throat as she pulled up a very reluctant rear. I feared for a frog-drowner, but it was only a faint mist. It felt good. And my Stetson kept most of it out of my face. I turned, worried about Meilori. But she was looking up into the drizzle, her whole face a’glow with esctasy.

“Oh, Samuel, how lovely. A steady, pleasant rain.”

Inari husked, “There is no such thing as steady, pleasant rain, Meilori. There is only loathsome, miserable, hair-ruining precipitation.”

Meilori laughed gaily, “Since I am born of mist, the rain troubles me not at all.”

“Look, Meilori. See? I am telling you that you are first in my affections.”

“Ah, sister, you are using the wrong finger.”

“Yes, and I am using both of them.”

Seeing them snipe at each other made me feel better. Somehow, I knew that things were almost back to normal for them -- at least, for a little while. Strasser seemed to be lost in his own personal fog of pain and failure. I knew that feeling all too well. He was a murderer of little girls, and I knew I shouldn’t feel sorry for him. But I did, just the same. I shook my head. There was something seriously wrong with me.

He strode wooden-legged through the drizzle until we passed several empty deck tables and made it to the next stairway down. He trudged, head slumped like a depressed zombie. Hell, maybe that was what he would become without someone to care for and someone to care about him.

We stepped down the stairs and took the first right. I was completely lost in this maze of a ship. It didn’t matter. I just kept my senses alert for the smell of decay that came from those who no longer breathed but only preyed on those who did. I’d known many a Ranger that was so fixed on where they were, that they walked smack into an ambush. And then, they immediately knew where they were -- in an unmarked grave.

But no ambush exploded around us. Strasser merely stood in front of a clawed marked door, staring at it as if he looked at it long enough, the scene inside would change. Finally, he opened the door and walked in. I eased in, stepping sideways to the left, my Paterson hip Colt in my hand. Nobody sprang at me. The only enemy a smell. The smell of recent, bloody death.

Meilori hushed in a breath. Even Inari let out a low growl. I looked down on what remained of Claus. Earlier, I had quoted a poem of a woman seeking where the shadows were. I figured I had found that place in this stateroom.

The stateroom was a shambles. Broken furniture tossed everywhere. Curtains, bedding, and wallpaper ripped as though by claws. Even the carpet was slashed.

"Were you here when this happened, Strasser?," I asked.

He shook his head. "There was an argument."

Inari sneered, "So we can see."
He hadn't even heard her, lost in choices he'd wished he could go back and change. "I -- I left in a rage. H-His last memory of me is ugly, so ... ugly."

Strasser walked stiff-legged as if not feeling the deck beneath his feet until he stood over the ravaged thing that used to look human. Sobbing loud, he sank to his knees with a dull thud. He took the withered hand in his and held it tenderly to his face, cradling it as if it were an injured dove.

“Claus, oh Claus! Thou wast not born for death, immortal bird.”

Inari looked down upon him and sneered, “Life. After you’ve removed the wit, irony, and ambiguity, what have you got?”

Again Strasser seemed not to have heard her. I looked to Meilori. Her face was haunted, as if this scene was too close to one she had played out long ago. She stared off into the distant horizons of her mind. She seemed to be listening to the bitter refrains of a mournful song. Perhaps the selfsame song that had found a path through the sad heart of Ruth, when sick for home, she stood in tears among the alien corn.

I kneeled beside Strasser and whispered, “When did you find him like this?”

Strasser gently laid the husk of a hand down upon the bloody, shredded chest of his lover. As if I had not spoken, he pulled out the bent collar of the white satin shirt over the black velvet smoking jacket, straighting it to match the other one. He ran his fingers along the broad shoulders of Claus. They went for the withered, contorted face, then flinched away.

I looked at Claus’s right forefinger. Its end was smeared with his own blood. And with it, two words had been written : El Chupacabra.

“No clues, eh?,” snorted Inari. “How could you have missed this one?”

Meilori gave her sister a scolding look. “Perhaps he could not see it through his tears.”

“Sister, you are letting your human’s maudlin sensibilities infect you.”
Strasser shook his head. “This was not here when I left.”

He looked bewildered at me. “El Chupacabra? What does that mean?”

I smiled bitter, “It’s Spanish for 'Where are your goats tonight?'”

He grabbed me by the right arm. “That is not funny! What does it mean?”

“It means that the hunters have become the hunted.”
And so that is my murder scene. Hope it kept your interest. I have always pictured Samuel McCord as Quigley with moon-white hair:


  1. Great excerpt, Roland. It kept me reading until the end. And with Meilori and Sam in the scene, I had to. Plus, I never trust Strasser in your scenes, and why come to Sam for help?

    I like the idea of Quigley (Tom Seleck) as Sam, even with white hair.

    I was checking the A to Z list today and saw your name moved from where it originally was - how could that happen? I saw it originally much closer to the top of the list. ???

  2. D.G.:
    Originally, Strasser thought Sam had killed Claus in relaliation for what happened earlier in the novel. He was wrong, of course. Samuel kills only in defense of himself or of innocents.

    I'm glad you liked Sam and Meilori together. They made a near unstoppable team -- which was why Maija later moved against her sister, Meilori.

    Yes, I had joined the first day the A-Z was announed. I saw where I had been removed completely from the list just yesterday and rejoined -- though upon reflection, if I am not wanted, I may not join in after all.

    There are, after all, over a thousand. I will not be missed.

    Thanks for noticing. :-)

  3. I always enjoy your posts but have trouble getting around your site. This comment is taking a lifetime. don't know why. Still, I did enjoy your story

    As always, Renee

  4. Interesting excerpt, very vivid, makes me want to read the rest. Particularly enjoyed the descriptions, thanks.

  5. Great murder mystery. You have a distinct way with words. I loved Sam in this novel

    Thanks for posting for RFW Roland.


  6. Way to get ready to answer the door Roland. All weaponed up. Great, familiar characters and a good excerpt for the March challenge. Am enjoying reading your latest.

  7. Yolanda:
    Sorry that you had difficulty in getting around in my site. Obviously, DayStar (Samuel's arch enemy) is behind it! :-)

    I'm so happy you liked the descriptions. Samuel, though a Texas Ranger, is a poet at heart, forced into a life of violence by circumstance.

    The way with words is all Samuel! He made me say that! I'm happy you enjoyed this novel. :-)

    Door to door salesmen only visit Samuel once!

    I am so glad you are enjoying reading my latest! :-)

  8. You should never ignore those premonitions! Love a good murder mystery.