Posted in excerpt, mystery, Spotlight, suspense on June 26, 2015




Ray Courage’s wife Pam died thirteen years before in a car accident. Or did she? Ray’s world is turned upside down when he receives a series of e-mails from someone claiming to be his dead wife, accusing him of attempting to kill her and vowing revenge. Ray sets out to find the identity of the e-mailer only to discover the circumstances of his wife’s apparent death appear to be all but accidental. Soon Police Detective Carla Thurber comes to suspect Ray of killing his wife, and of a subsequent murder of Pam’s confidant. Meanwhile, a murderous predator who does not want the facts of Pam’s death to surface aims to stop Ray. In the greatest challenge of his life, Ray must outrun the police and elude those who are out to kill him as he seeks the truth about his wife’s death.


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Pam Courage drove and drove and drove, a brilliant November mid-afternoon turning to dusk then dark. She made the same loop four times. Sacramento to Davis and back again. She’d driven more than two hundred miles, but clarity would not come. She usually thought best when she drove alone. Today, not so much.

How had everything become so screwed up so quickly? This was not a gradual buildup of events, or a perfect storm of random happenings, nothing that she could have predicted or seen coming. This was a two-ton anvil falling out of the sky and clobbering her. The meeting with Yuri had been a disaster. Ray? He’d upset her like never before.

Her cell phone rang on the passenger seat. Ray. Now the third time he had called, no doubt worried, maybe approaching frantic as the dinner hour had come and long since passed. No, let it go to voice mail. Ray. God dammit.

More than five hours had passed since she had surprised Dr. Susan Whitehead when she dropped in to her office unannounced. Pam had never been to a psychologist before, but Dr. Whitehead had helped others in her office. They talked only briefly, Pam too distracted to say much more than she’d fought with her husband in the morning, and problems at work had her distressed. Dr. Whitehead had encouraged her to talk more. Instead, Pam said she needed to think things through on her own. So she drove.

She would have to go home. She could not keep driving, avoiding the inevitable. No, this time she would merge onto Interstate 5 and go home. She owed it to herself and she owed it to Ray.

Just a couple of days ago she considered her life almost perfect. Great job. A good marriage. She thought about Sara and the joy she felt when she watched her daughter play tennis and soccer. Now she had the lead in the sixth grade play. A budding thespian. Was there anything that her twelve-year old daughter couldn’t do? Pam had been the same way as a girl. Confident. Adventurous. Fearless. She smiled. Quickly the smile evaporated. Now here she was, her confidence shaken to its very core, everything she felt true and right turned upside down. Not in a million years would she have predicted this happening to her. She looked at her eyes in the rearview mirror and saw something almost animalistic—panic, fear and hopelessness.

Her hands on the steering wheel did not obey the direction from her weakening will as she flew past Sutterville Road, the exit leading home. Five miles later she exited at Meadowview Road, turned right on to Freeport Boulevard and drove past the tiny town of Freeport, where the road met the river and followed its windy route towards the delta. Here there were no streetlights, nothing but darkness and the narrow tunnel of illumination from her headlights.

The cell phone rang again.

“Shit.” Even without looking at it she knew it was Ray. But this time, rather than spurring her to drive on, the call convinced her to return home. Her grumbling stomach announced the hunger she’d been ignoring all afternoon.

She never drove down here, by the river, where she regularly read of cars plunging off the side into the cold waters, the bodies of drivers, passengers, men, women and children fished out by grim scuba divers. Though only ten miles from home, she felt in another world, a million miles away. A dark place, timeless, untouched by civilization. She turned up the heater to combat the increasing chill of the late fall evening.

She glanced in the rearview mirror again and noticed a truck following a couple of hundred feet back, its headlight higher and farther apart than those of a car. Had there been someone behind her when she started her aimless journey? Of course there had. She had been driving on some of the most traveled freeways and roads in Northern California, millions of vehicles passed over them each day. At any given moment there was sure to be someone—a car or a truck—right behind her. She’d been so lost in her thoughts all day that she never paused to think about the other cars around her; yet her subconscious seemed to have been at work because it told her that the truck behind her right now, shrouded in the black night, had been with her all day. She snorted at the idea and its improbability. She was getting tired and starting to imagine things.

Cold, hungry, and growing more afraid in the alien landscape, she looked for a side road or pullout so that she could turn around. About mile later she spotted the driveway leading to a house on the right side of the road. She slowed and flicked on her blinker. The truck behind her seemed to slow as well.

A wrought iron gate guarded the driveway, but there was enough space between it and the road for Pam to pull over and turn back towards the road at a ninety-degree angle. She looked to her right to make sure the lane heading back towards Sacramento was clear. She looked left to see the vehicle advancing on her. Advancing at her, its high beams blinding.

She reached down for the shifter to put it into reverse, but failed to engage the release button, leaving her car centered in the road. The truck was going to hit her. With little choice, she floored the accelerator to propel herself forward and out of harm’s way. The truck veered towards her new path.

Walter Heffner told police that night that he thought an airliner had crashed on the road in front of his house, the sound so deafening, the eruption of flames so huge that only an object that large moving that fast could explain it. By the time he put on his shoes and coat he saw what was left of a car straddling the center stripe of the two-lane country road, the heat from the fire so great that he could not get within a hundred feet. His eyes searched the now brightly lit landscape for a second vehicle or whatever might have caused such a conflagration. He looked up the road and down. Nothing but darkness. That seemed strange to him.

About the Author

ScottMackeyScott Mackey lives in Northern California, where he writes both fiction and non-fiction. His first book, Barbary Baseball, achieved critical acclaim from baseball historians for its quality research and writing. He followed that with two young adult novels. His popular Ray Courage Mystery Series includes Courage Begins, Courage Matters, and Courage Resurrected. The fourth book in the series, Courage Lies Beneath, is scheduled for release later in 2015.

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