And now she has to live with the results!
Approaching storms come with a flash of lightning, warning of Nature's danger. But for Mackenzie Aldkin, lightning brings a more sinister danger. After one strike of lightning, she now has a scar around her ankle and the ability to hear a murderer's voice.
As Mac works to organize a mystery theater production, she is finding it hard to sort the voice of the killer from those of the actors. But she knows the killer is going to strike. Can she trust herself to follow the voices she hears long enough to prevent a murder, or find a killer? Even her mysterious gray kitten, Shaylee, seems to know evil is lurking backstage.
With her friends and family helping, Mac races the clock, hoping the voice will lead her to the killer and not her own ominous end.
Don't wait for the next lightning strike-get your copy today!
Release date: May 5, 2018
Publisher: Sun, Sand & Stories Publishing
Print pages: 136
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Victoria LK Williams
"Hang on, Mac, I'm going with you."
"What makes you think I'm going anywhere?"
"Because I know you, and I know that look. You're heading for the beach, and I think that sounds like a great idea."
He gave me a conspiratorial wink, and I grinned back. With a crook of my finger, I signaled him to follow me out before anyone could stop us. Once we were outside, we quickly headed for the beach like two kids playing hooky from school. The waves were choppy, and there were a few clouds scattered across the sky, giving it a grayish appearance. A brisk wind blew most of the cobwebs from my brain. A tension headache that was developing slowly disappeared, but not completely. We walked hand-in-hand on the beach; there was no need for words, we simply enjoyed each other's company, and I tried to relax.
The tension had been building all day, but I had ignored it. Even now it still lingered, and I put it down to the stress of the past week’s meetings and the approaching opening night for the mystery dinner theater shows. That, and the tensions radiating from both the professional actors and the volunteer actors. Added to that was the dress rehearsal and all the last-minute changes that went with it. No wonder the headache kept nagging at me. I had thought by heading to my usual place of solace on the beach, the tension that was creating the knots in my shoulders, and the fuzziness in my brain would disappear. It was always my go-to place, and it never failed me. Yet today the tension didn't dissipate; if anything, it seemed to increase.
I'm not sure what happened first, the pain around the scar on my ankle, or the lightning that flashed across the sky. They might have been simultaneous, and it caught my attention in a very personal way. I realized what that pain and that lightning could mean, and within seconds, I was right. I’d let myself become complacent with my newfound ability. Because of this, I hadn't associated the tension with its proper source, until it was too late.
Another voice was calling.
“I have to get rid of her, this is the perfect opportunity — now is the time to get myself away from her demands and clinginess. They want a murder mystery? I’ll give them a real one to solve.”
I stopped dead in my tracks after the voice faded, but as the words penetrated and made sense, I sank to my knees. Peter looked at me in astonishment and dropping to his knees next to me, held me, not sure what was going on, but knowing something was wrong.
"Mac, are you okay? What’s going on?"
I just shook my head at him, not wanting to acknowledge what was starting again. Part of me still couldn't believe it wasn't just a trick of the wind playing with my overactive imagination, but I knew in my heart I'd been called by another voice. Peter pulled me close to him in a comforting hug, I wasn’t even aware the tears were streaming down my face until I felt him brush one aside. The words spoken were penetrating my thought process, and I understood, once again, I was being called by a power higher than me to stop that desperate voice; before words became actions.
"It’s happened again, Peter. A different voice, a different place, but with the same evil intent as the last time."
I peered at him through my tears, desperate for him to tell me that he believed me. Or to tell me to ignore it. But that wasn't going to happen, not after the last time. Peter understood I was called by this power and it was up to me to prevent what was sure to be happening.
"Okay, take a deep breath. I'm here with you, and we will work through this. Tell me what you heard, and we'll figure out the next step.”
“The next step is to get to Moira and Uncle Charlie. They’ll know what to do.”
“Don't worry, we'll get to Moira and Charlie and fill them in. Mac, you've got to get hold of yourself. You’re the one who hears the voice, and it's you who must answer the call. But you can’t do that until you’ve gotten calm and level-headed.
His words brought me to my senses, and I straightened my shoulders self-consciously, not even realizing I had been slouching over in self-protection. Peter was right, for some reason, I was responsible to intervene in whatever would happen. I was grateful Peter was there by my side, and Moira would be there to guide me. The Scottish woman had a sense of what was happening when those voices came to me. She could get me to channel the voices to pick out hints and clues that would help. I took a deep, steadying breath and tried to remember how Moira had guided me. Details. Details were what she had taught me to remember. Find one and concentrate, others would follow.
“Give me some space, let me think for a second.”
I gave Peter a gentle push so I could think. He didn’t take offense to my actions, he understood I had to do this on my own. He was there to support me, and that made things seem less panicky. Pushing the hair out of my face, I struggled against the wind for a moment, and then, in defeat, I turned my face up and into the wind. My blond, sun-streaked hair billowed out behind me like a flag proclaiming its stand. The wind dried the few tears still on my cheeks, and I could taste the salt in the air. This was my comfort zone. Even after being struck by lightning in a crossover hit, I didn’t shy away from the call of the sea. Absentmindedly, I rubbed the feathered scar around my ankle; a gift from that lightning strike. Or, according to Moira, a fairy kiss proclaiming me protected by the Fairy realm. Rubbing the scar seemed to help me concentrate, as did fondling the necklace around my neck. The necklace was a gift from Peter, made from a piece of the fragmented sand that had formed when the lightning hit it before jumping over to strike my ankle. I always wore it and swore that it had a calming, centering hold on me when I ran my fingers around the crystallized sand.
“It was a man’s voice, Peter. Not a child or a senior citizen. Maybe close to our age. Deep and steady, but no accent.”
I tried to concentrate harder on the memory, but I remembered nothing else. I shook my head in despair, but he didn't let it discourage him. Holding out his hand, he grabbed mine and pulled me to my feet.
"That's a good start, Mac. We know two things now, it's a male, and someone related to the production."
"The production! We've been gone too long. We need to get back, Peter. We need to get back and keep an eye on everyone. There was something very definite and determined in that voice. Whatever action he plans on taking, he will not wait around."
Peter nodded, and without letting go of my hand, he led us back to the clubhouse. I gave a last look to the sea, and then—with resignation—I turned away from the ocean, the angry waves and lightning filling the sky. I walked, retracing the steps I had taken a short time before, knowing I had to face that voice and all its consequences.
When we reached the boardwalk steps, I looked up and took a deep breath; knowing that I was going into unfamiliar territory once again, and I would need Peter’s help, and all those that I loved.
As we walked back into the backstage doors, we found the actors already putting on the costumes to get ready for the first dress rehearsal. The stagehands had set up the stage for the opening act, and a sense of excitement overrode any other feelings I might have wanted to home in on from those around me.
Marcus seemed to have everything well in hand, and he motioned for me to join him at the front table, by the stage where we could watch everything as if we were a patron. Not wanting to disrupt the flow of things, by looking for Moira or Uncle Charlie, I walked over and sat next to the director.
"Good, you're here. Mackenzie. You and Peter are the last to arrive, so you can sit with me and be my second set of eyes. Together we will find any flaws and correct them before opening night"." He grabbed my hand to pull me into the chair next to him, leaving Peter to sit beside me with little fanfare. Once I was seated, he turned his attention back to the stage, calling out for everyone to take their places.
"All right, my children, it's time to show us just how talented you all are. We’re going to start from the first scene and go all the way through. I'll make notes of what needs to be worked on, and then we’ll start over again. Everybody ready? Right then, let's begin."
It only took a matter of moments before I was wrapped up in the play in front of me. I watched the scene, and the mystery develops, along with a hearty sense of humor. I made a few notes as I watched, of little tweaks that I would bring to Marcus’s attention. But they were minor details. Nothing major. Moira and Melissa had done a fabulous job with the costumes, both in procuring them and alternating them to fit each actor, as needed.
Peter and I were so mesmerized by the acting in front of us, that I barely realized when Moira and Uncle Charlie came and joined us at the end of the first act.
"Somebody! We need to first aid kit back here!"
The cry came from backstage. Jumping to my feet, I raced to see what was going on, the others close behind me. The cry for help stopped everybody on stage, including the rehearsal. The actors tried to follow me backstage, but I made Peter keep them on stage and away from any potential danger.
The danger was gone by the time I'd reached whatever had happened, but the damage was clear. At first, I didn't recognize what I was seeing. Detective Byrd was bent over, holding a towel to his leg. Blood was seeping through the towel wrapped around the wound, and a switchblade knife was sticking out of the fatty part of his leg.
My eyes and my brain were not working together. When I saw the knife sticking out, my brain kept saying it wasn't possible. That the knife blade would've retreated before it caused any damage to someone. Yet my eyes were clearly showing me that something had gone desperately wrong with the prop.
Karen and Roger lost no time and jumped into action. Their training as lifeguards had also trained them in first aid and fast responses. Uncle Charlie was dialing for an ambulance, over Detective Byrd’s protest, while Peter and I asked questions. It didn’t take long to find out what happened. The man had been showing the actors how the knife would work—when it didn’t. It was that simple. I wondered why the knife didn’t work. It wasn’t a different knife, or the detective would have seen that right away. No, there had to have been some type of mechanical malfunction. A spring not working right, or something lodged in the opening, preventing the blade from doing what it should, retracting so the impact on the leg would have been nonexistent.
While the paramedics were assisting the wounded man, I grabbed a clean glove from their open kit and using it, I grabbed the knife while no one was looking. I realized there wasn’t much time, but chances were that I wouldn’t get this opportunity again. Turning my back to the others, hiding what I was doing, I looked the knife over, inch by inch. At first, I didn’t notice the oddity, but looking over the object in my hand a second time, I found a tiny metal fragment, like a broken straight pin, wedged in the mechanics of the knife, prohibiting the retraction of the blade.
So, it’s started, I thought.
I looked around the scene, at the people assembled there, and wondered who had murder in their plans.
The injured man kept trying to reassure us he was okay and there was no reason for an ambulance, but I insisted that he be taken to the hospital, even if it was just for precautionary measures. When I asked him if he needed anyone to go with him to the hospital, he refused, saying that he would find his own way back as quickly as he could. He insisted there was no reason to wait around for his return, time was short, and we should go on with rehearsal. It was apparent the detective had no idea that something had gone wrong, or at least he hadn't thought about it yet. Making a quick decision, I wrapped the knife in an odd piece of material I found on a shelf and slipped it into my pocket. The detective may think nothing was wrong now, but I’m sure when I showed him what I found, it would change his mind. In the meantime, I would search and figure out what was happening. Once Marcus was told the detective was not severely injured, he rounded up his troops again and got them back on stage to continue with the rehearsal. The group was a little more subdued than they were earlier, but they quickly got back into the swing of their roles. Within ten minutes it was as if nothing had ever happened. But it had, and I would find out what was going on. I watched each face on stage for a hint or a clue, but I saw nothing. With a glance over at Peter, I saw he was looking at everybody intently too. Between the two of us, we'd figure it out. Then I happened to look over towards Moira and found her staring at me; her green eyes not missing a thing. I don't know how, but I would bet my bottom dollar that Moira was aware another voice had been heard.
When they finish their first run-through, Marcus called all the actors and stagehands together, wanting to point out a few things that needed attention and a few items he wanted to change or tweak. I left him to it, after all, this was his area of expertise. Motioning to Uncle Charlie and Moira, I walked over to where Peter was, ready to have a small conference amongst the four of us
“Another voice has spoken to you, hasn't it?”
Wearily, I nodded my head. Uncle Charlie looked confused at Moira's question, but then caught on to what I meant. With concern ringing in his voice, he asked what was happening. I made sure that everyone else’s attention was on Marcus, and then I answered him in a loud whisper.
“I was on the beach when I heard it. There was a flash of lightning, and I felt a stinging around my scar and then a voice. It was as if the speaker was sitting across the table from me. Everything was so fast—and so real. I barely had time to realize what was happening before it was finished.”
Moira took my hands in hers, and it was as if a soothing force came from her fingertips and climbed up my arms. There was a strength that came from her. A strength that gave me courage. With a deep breath, I told her and my uncle what the voice had said.
They were both silent for a few moments, taking it all in, then Uncle Charlie was the first to speak.
“Okay, based on what you heard and what just happened here, we can be pretty sure our victim is still alive. The killer is still in the planning stages.”
“But, how far along are his plans? Or how serious—”
“Oh, I think Detective Byrd will attest his plans are very serious, Moira.”
“So, we need to stop him from going any further.”
“I think we might need to figure out who the killer is first.”
“Or the intended victim.”
Peter and I were silent while Moira and my uncle tossed out their thoughts, almost as if we weren’t there. Finally, I broke into their brainstorming.
“I agree that we need to find both the victim and the killer. But we also need to work quickly. Not only to save a life but to find out who experimented with the props. When Detective Byrd returns, I will have to show him that knife, and how it’s been tampered with.”
The four of us exchanged glances, Detective Byrd would not only have a fit about somebody tampering with the knife, but also with the fact that I held the evidence back, regardless of how short of a time it was in my possession. Peter had been in the cross-hairs of the detective’s investigation in the past, and the last thing he wanted was to be there again. And I didn't want to upset the precarious friendship the detective and I were forming. But, we could not explain the fact that I heard voices in my head, proclaiming the intentions of the killer. The man would never believe me and would probably want to send me in for psychiatric evaluation.
"Mac's right. Even if we can't find all the answers before the detective comes back, we can at least point him in the right direction. So, who do we look for first—the killer or the victim?"
Before we could answer Peter's question, there were groans from the actors, and we looked over in their direction. Marcus was shaking his fingers at them, calling them to task over their laziness, as he demanded that they go through the scene one more time and make the corrections he wanted. I looked at the faces, realized the groans were fake, and they were more than willing to do what Marcus asked of them. It was clear the director had everyone well in hand, which would free me up to do the investigations. As I watched, the actors broke apart and went to their various positions on stage and backstage.
Deciding this was an appropriate time to start looking around, we broke off into pairs. Moira and Uncle Charlie would talk to the backstage crew, getting feedback on their reaction to the knife. While Peter and I would check out the dressing rooms of anybody on stage. As we walked by a window that looked out onto the terrace, I noticed that the wind had continued to pick up and storm clouds had gathered. It was a perfect day for everybody to be inside for the dress rehearsal, making me also think that it was the perfect opportunity to check out the hotel rooms of the actors, instead of snooping in the dressing rooms. That is if I could talk Uncle Charlie into parting with the information on who was staying in what room. From that point, I knew the staff at the hotel well enough that I was sure I could get the keys to the rooms. If I had the right excuse, of course.
"I don't know Mackenzie, this seems like it's crossing a fine line. I'm not sure if I would call it an invasion of privacy or breaking and entering. But either way, I know it's illegal."
"Uncle Charlie, I'm not asking you to give me the keys. I'm only asking you to tell me who is in what room. That's all you need to know, and I'll handle the rest from there."
"I hate to say it Charlie, but Mackenzie has a point. This may be the only opportunity we have, until the play starts, to have everybody in one place while she searches the rooms," Moira agreed.
"Charlie, I'll have her back. And with me there it will go quicker. It's about time I used those investigating skills you're paying for. If you two stay here and watch the actors, then you can phone ahead if somebody leaves and heads over to the hotel. That will give us plenty of warning, and we can get out of there quickly."
Uncle Charlie looked back and forth between the three of us and then shrugged his shoulders when he realized that I had already decided. Giving me the room numbers would just make my task faster and lessen the risk of my being caught. And Peter was right. With his decision to move away from the family CPA business and into investigative law, he had been taking investigation classes. The plan was that he would come on board with Uncle Charlie's firm and handle research and investigation into his cases. This was a perfect opportunity to put his newfound skills to the test. Reaching into his pocket, Uncle Charlie brought out a list and, with reservation, handed it over.
"The two of you be careful. And if we call you, get out of there right away. No hesitation. This man wants to kill, and I don't think he will let the two of you get in his way."
Impulsively I gave the man a hug and a quick kiss on his cheek.
"You're the best, Uncle Charlie." Grabbing Peter's hand, I headed towards the exit. But not before I saw Moira put her hand on Uncle Charlie’s shoulder reassuringly.
Before we reached the exit, I made a detour to check on Shaylee. Peter waited at the door for me while I scooped her up and took her to the manager's office, where she promised to keep an eye on her. While I was gone, the actors would look after her as well, but I didn't want to distract them. I thanked the manager, Louise White, who was already cuddling the kitten, and started down the hallway to meet Peter. Reaching the big bay window that overlooked the ocean, a flash of lightning raced across the sky, followed by thunder that shook the windowpanes.
"I cannot believe that cop got hold of the knife before it could be used like I intended. I could be free right now-- if he hadn’t interfered. I’ll have to find another way."
The words mixed in my mind with the thunder, but they were real, and I could discern the frustration in the voice. I shivered, as I realized the killer may have just moved up his timetable.
I felt, rather than saw, Peter look at me inquiringly and I simply nodded my head. He knew at once that the killer spoke again, and he picked up his pace to match mine. He understood the urgency, just as well as I did.
Fifteen minutes later, the master key was in my hand, having wheedled it from the manager of the hotel against his better judgment. When I called upon favors owed; he grudgingly gave it to me, pleading for me to be quick.
"I won't touch anything in anybody's room, and I’ll have the key back in twenty minutes—thirty, tops. No one will ever know, Jonas," I promised the red-headed, bespectacled manager, trying to reassure him. After receiving a promise from Peter to keep me in line, Jonas handed us the key. He trusted me, we'd grown up together, and he was part of the same beach click I belonged to with Peter and Karen, and the rest. We had each other's backs when there was a crisis. And this classified as a crisis.
I had forgotten the local actors would also be staying in the hotel, but when I thought about the interaction between the actors, it made sense. And Marcus had made it clear in his contract he wanted all participants housed together during the critical rehearsals before the opening night. After the weekend was over, the locals were welcomed to return to their homes.
We started with the men's rooms, since the killer’s voice was male, and even though I felt creepy going through everybody's things, we did. The only thing we discovered that was at all interesting was an open letter on a desk in Ed’s room from a big law firm in town. I didn't need to read the contents to realize somebody was asking for a divorce. I pointed it out to Peter but made no move to handle it. We would have to be content with the knowledge. Walking across the room, I opened the door to his wife’s adjoining suite.
My exclamation came out without my even realizing it, and Peter looked over my shoulder to see what had gotten me so riled up. The room in front of me was a disaster; clothes were spilled over the bed, makeup on the desk, and shopping bags were all around the floor. Somebody had made use of the hotel gift shop, and it didn't take too much for me to figure out who. Krista was well-known for her shopping habits, and as I stepped over a few bags walking into the room, I couldn't help but notice she only bought high-end products. Peter walked over to examine the desk a little more closely and whistled.
"Krista likes to spend money. I can't believe what she paid for some of this stuff. Why do you need to spend this much money on makeup and moisturizers? No wonder Ed is so upset with her." He showed me a couple of receipts lying there for items she had purchased, and even I was impressed at the amount she had spent.
"Well, I guess she thinks the higher price of a moisturizer, the better it will work. After all, no woman likes to have their skin looking like a dried-up old husk of corn."
Glancing around, I noticed two credit cards sitting there, and it surprised me to find they weren’t in Krista's name, but her father's.
"Well, this explains how she can afford it. Poor Ted, it must be so demeaning to him to realize she's still spending Daddy's money."
A quick peek through Drake’s room only revealed that the actor had a lot of fans. Female fans. And from some of the intimate pictures strewn across the table, he enjoyed all the benefits that went along with his success.
We found little else in the other rooms, most of the cast hadn't even unpacked completely. A few made use of the minibars and others left their clothes in suitcases.
I took a quick look at the hall clock and realized there was only about ten minutes before I needed to get the passkey back to the manager. Motioning for Peter to continue, the next room we entered was Mary's.
“Oh, she’s so excited about the baby,” I all but gushed.
There were catalogs of baby furniture on the desk, and it looked like she had already gone shopping and found a few stuffed animals from the hotel gift store. I smiled to myself, seeing how excited she was about her pregnancy.
“Come on, Mac, we’re out of time.”
Grabbing my hand, Peter pulled me out of the room, closing the door firmly behind him.
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...