Welcome to Woofer's Lair. Curious as to what you will see here? Well, for the most part, you will find book reviews, maybe the occasional movie review, and if you are lucky, you might stumble across one of my own works in progress. If you like what you see or what read, and even if you don't, please feel free to leave your comments. As I am somewhat new to blogging, all of your constructive feedback is appreciated. Have fun and thanks for stopping by.

Wicked Seasons

Wicked Seasons
My short story, HUNGRY FOR MORE, is included


Joe Hill's NOS4A2

Friday, July 29, 2011

When I Look Into Your Eyes

In the past, Abraham Stroud had battled a nest of vampires and a colony of werewolves, barely escaping with his life. This time around he faces what might very well be his most dangerous enemy of all—an ancient evil that has lain dormant in the earth below the streets of New York City, one that has to power to enslave the masses and bend them to its will.

When Gordon Consolidated Enterprises starts breaking ground on what promises to be the largest building in New York City, they need to dig deeper than usual to set the foundation. The construction crew unearths the decaying remains of an ancient ship, bringing construction to a screaming halt. What they don't realize is that in the process they have awakened an ancient evil that was locked away and buried aboard that ship, an evil that is reaching out to the citizens of New York and claiming them for its own. The first to fall victim to this evil is Simon Albert Weitzel, who has been "called" repeatedly to the construction site. This time, however, he has no recollection as to how he got there from his home in Brooklyn. So how does this tie in with Abe Stroud, who is clear across the world taking part in an archeological dig in Egypt?

While excavating the Egyptian site, Abe unearths a chamber full of mystical skulls made of various substances. One is a crystal skull, and while staring into the empty sockets of the skull, Abe is visited with a vision. In it he sees Weitzel and one other fall victim to the power contained within the ship, but he does not know what it means. The Egyptian site turns out to be more valuable that first expected, and the Egyptian government, having been burned too many times by American researchers and archeologists, request that Abe leave the country immediately.

Abe's plane touches down in New York, where there is a layover before he can head home. When he steps off the plane, he is greeted by an armed escort who have been ordered to take Abe to the Commissioner of Police of New York City. What they could possibly want Abe doesn't know, but he is about to find out. Turn out the Commissioner has heard all about Stroud and wants to enlist him to investigate the ship and what seems to be an airborne virus or bacteria that seems to be emanating from it and placing the people it infects into comas. At first Stroud doesn't want to get involved, but when he learns who the first victim was, he knows it is tied into the vision he had in Egypt. As Stroud and a small team of scientists begin their investigation, the thing in the ship reaches out to Stroud, calling him Esruad, which only serves to deepen the mystery. It seems to know Stroud, even if Stroud doesn't know it.

It soon becomes a race against time with Stroud's research moving at a snail's pace even as whatever is infecting the people of New York starts to move at an accelerated rate, broadening its reach to include animals and vermin. If that wasn't bad enough, more pressure is put on Stroud and his team when those in comas begin to awaken and start herding those uninfected by the disease into the bowels of the ship. Will Stroud be able to unravel the mystery before this evil lays claim to his soul?

Zombie Eyes is probably the most ambitious of Robert Walker's Blood Dreams series in that it attempts to create an evil that actually threatens the world if not stopped. In past adventures, Stroud was up against creatures of a physical type, but here, the threat seems at first to be biological in nature. It is ultimately revealed to be one of a spiritual nature, and the reader finds himself wondering just how Stroud is going to combat this entity and win. Can it be done, or has Stroud finally met his match?

It is that very ambitiousness that I think is the book's downfall, and by downfall I don't mean failure, so before you go jumping to the wrong conclusion, let me say that I did like Zombie Eyes, and the story progresses to a satisfactory and believable conclusion. For me, however, it came off as the weakest of the three books in this series. Why? In Stroud's previous outings, there was more of a sense of urgency in the books, a sense of action and chase as Stroud physically hunts down the evil. In Zombie Eyes, things move along at a great pace when they are inside the ship, but when they return to the museum/lab everything comes to a screeching halt as they research the artifacts that they have brought back with them. There were several times where they were returning to the museum and I got a flash of Batman and Robin racing back to the Batcave. That doesn't make it a bad book, just different that what I have come to expect based on Vampire Dreams and Werewolf's Grief. Because the pacing fluctuated, it took me a little longer to get through it than the previous two. This may not bother some readers, but I was so tempted to jump ahead to where they are back in the ship.

My only real gripe with Zombie Eyes, and it's my usual gripe when it comes to horror and supernatural suspense books, is the romance element. Keep it in your pants until the evil is vanquished or get it out of your system before the you get involved with chasing down the Big Bad Monster. This especially holds true with Walker because his central female characters are usually strong, almost masculine in character no matter how they are physically described, which isn't a bad thing, but when it comes to the woo-hoo moment, you forget that they are actually women and expect Stroud to reach for something that isn't there. The romance element usually comes into the story at the wrong time, as well. In this situation, we just get finished learning how physically and mentally exhausted Stroud and Cline are, how they can barely stay awake, but the moment they get back to the hotel, they miraculously find the energy to go at it. It's an eye-rolling moment and a cue to skip ahead until one or the other (or both) are sound asleep.

All in all, though, Zombie Eyes is a thrilling addition to the Blood Screams series and I would recommend it. Do you need to read the first two in the series? Not necessary, as each story does stand on its own, but highly recommended so you aren't left scratching your head when they passing reference to the vampires of Andover or the werewolf hunt is made. And here's hoping Robert Walker continues writing this series. Long live Abraham Stroud!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tales of the Zombies Grimmer

Ever since reading Tanith Lee's Red as Blood, or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer, I'm always on the lookout for twisted and perverted forms of the traditional fairy tales, which is why when T.W. Brown's Gruesomely Grimm Zombie Tales was published by May December Publications, I just had to get it. I was so excited that I moved it to the top of my pile of books waiting to be read.

Normally when reviewing a collection of tales I would touch on each of the stories within the collection; I am not going to do that here, partly because there are 25 of them, and partly because most of the tales are so brief I fear I would be giving too much away.

For the most part, I enjoyed T.W. Brown's re-imaging of the Tales of the Brothers Grimm, I just wish I was more familiar with all of the Grimm's Fairy Tales. The tales are all well written, and keeping with the style of the original tales, they are all simply written, which I liked. But my excitement at the prospect of reading twisted fairy tales waned a little the further I progressed into the collection. Part of it had to do with my lack of familiarity with the complete works of the Brothers Grimm. Brown does provide the original titles for the tales retold in this collection, but the titles are given in their native language, and not knowing German, I had some difficulty telling which tale was being rebooted. Some of them were obvious, such as Hansel and Gretel, others not so obvious. Were I more familiar with the original works, this probably would have been an easier task.

My other issue with the collection is that all of the tales had been updated. They are all set in a post zombie apocalypse world, and that wasn't what I was expecting. What was I expecting? The original tales in their original settings, only with zombies. The current flood of zombie mash-ups currently available set me up for this disappointment. I admit that Brown, to some extent, did what I was so hoping these other authors would have done when writing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Undead World of Oz, etc., and that was rewrite the story entirely, including the zombie elements, thereby making it his own; he didn't take the original text and tweak it slightly and insert paragraphs throughout to bring in the zombie element, so for that I applaud his ambitious undertaking. My only wish is that he retained the original setting of the tales.

With that being said, I had to force myself to forget that these were reboots Grimm's Fairy Tales with zombie elements and approach them as short tales of the zombie apocalypse. Once I was able to do that, I found I was able to appreciate the stories more.

I don't wish to detract from Brown's ambitious effort here. The fact that the cover emphasizes "Volume One" leads me to believe it is his intent to "zombie-fy" the complete works of the Brothers Grimm, so I applaud him for undertaking this project. Will I pick up Volume 2 when it is published? More than likely, yes, now that I know what to expect and what not to expect. As I mentioned earlier, the stories are all well written, and since the style in which they are written mirrors the simple telling of the original tales, it makes for a quick read. Perhaps, by then, I will have better familiarized myself with the complete works of the Brothers Grimm.

Whatever failings there are to appreciate this collection for what it is are strictly mine because of my lack of familiarity with the original tales and for delving into the volume with preconceived expectations. If you are a fan of all things zombie, this is something you should consider adding to your collection.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Move Over Twilight. . . There's a New Vamp in Town

When I first stumbled across Michael Griffo's Unnatural I admit I kinda rolled my eyes (well, not kinda, I did roll my eyes). In a market already saturated with teenage vampires full of angst, did we really need another one? What made this one so different from the others? Well, the one thing I noticed was that the main character, Michael Howard, is gay. Other than that, based on what I read, it didn't sound much different from Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, and any other romance-driven teen vampire series. But having suffered through Twilight, I figured it couldn't be any worse.

Michael Howard is just like any other gay teenager living in a small town. That sense of isolation and of not belonging weigh heavily on him, and he longs for the time when he can pack his bags and leave. To compound his feelings of isolation, he lives with a drug- and alcohol-dependent mother and his maternal grandparents, who have made it obvious they want nothing to do with him. Running away from home is not an option because he has nowhere to go. He never really knew his father, who lives somewhere in England. When his mother commits suicide, it seems his prayers have been answered: the father he has never known comes from England to take him home. Michael is elated at the idea of going to live in London and getting to know his father.

Arriving in England, Michael feels like he has finally come home. However, the dream of getting to know his father is short-lived. He spends one night with his father before being sent to a boarding school, Archangel Academy. And that's where his life changes forever. That's where he meets Ronan. These two were fated to meet; unbeknownst to either boy at the time of their meeting, they have been dreaming of each other. But their relationship is in trouble from the start. Ronan has a dark secret that he longs to tell Michael, but he's afraid of how he will react. That dark secret is that he is a vampire, as is Ronan's ex, Nakano, who refuses to accept the fact that their relationship is over. At the time of Michael and Ronan's meeting, only one other person on campus (besides Nakano) who knows Ronan's secret is Ciaran, Ronan's brother.

While this might seem like the typical love triangle, there's more going on below the surface at Archangel Academy. As in the human world, prejudices exist within the vampire world. We learn that while Nakano and Ronan are both vampires, they are two different breeds of vampires. Nakano's breed is of the more traditional variety; Ronan is a Water Vamp, a crossbreed between a vampire and a water-dwelling humanoid. The Water Vamps can walk in the sunlight, but they need to feed on blood and return to the sea of their birth once in awhile; Nakano's kind need to feed on blood on a regular basis, and while they can walk about in the daylight, they can only do so on the grounds of Archangel Academy, which right away informs the reader that there is something about the school, but what exactly it is is not revealed—at least not in this book. The Water Vamps are considered inferior among the vampire world. The conflict for the novel is set: vampire against vampire, and a seething jealousy of an ex toward his replacement. But there is something else at work here, some other power that seeks to protect Michael and guide him toward Ronan. And while this mystical power attempts to keep the young lovers together, Nakano and his kind try to break them apart and claim Michael for their own. Who wins? You'll just have to read and find out.

I've always been of the mindset that you don't mess with vampires. They are an iconic part of the horror genre, and if you are going to make changes that go against what is traditionally known about the race, you need to explain it in an manner that will be acceptable to the reader. L.J. Smith's vampires were able to walk in daylight because of bespelled rings given to them by the witches. Griffo's vampires can walk in the daylight because one breed has inherited the traits on the non-vampire ancestor, and the other breed can as long as they remain on the grounds of the school, for whatever reason that may be. I'm assuming Griffo has this planned out and it will be revealed in Book 2 of the series. Even Rice's Lestat was susceptible to the sun's killing rays until he partook of the blood of the ancient Akasha, the Mother of All Vampires. Griffo also doesn't attempt to sanitize the vampire's means of sustenance. They are killers, but he does soften it some by explaining that Water Vamps don't need to feed as often, and when Ronan does feed, he chooses an elderly individual who is already close to death. Nakano, on the other hand, is more feral, defying the orders of his superiors and feeds on one of his fellow students, which threatens to exposed them all. There is a little tweaking followed by an explanation that makes Griffo's vampires palatable.

All if the trappings of the vampire romance are present, vampire meets boy, vampire loses boy, but does vampire get boy, or is boy seduced by the dark side? It's predictable, and if the book wasn't well written, you could lump it in with another series that shall remain nameless (HINT: see the title of this review) that I can't stand.

The main character in Unnatural is someone anybody teenager can relate to, gay or straight. In fact, we aren't told of Michael's sexual orientation until after we get to know him. We only know that he feels different, that he feels he doesn't belong. Anybody who has gone through the coming to terms with their own sexual orientation knows the signs, but for those who don't they are actually given the chance to get to know Michael as a person and to feel sorry for him and the situation he finds himself in at the books opening. In fact, with the exception of Nakano, all of the characters we are introduced to come off as "human", full of life and emotion, we see them at their best and their worst. Nakano doesn't seem to have any redeeming qualities; even when he is being tender with Ronan in an attempt to win him back, we know he is only doing so because he knows Michael can see them. Nakano is dark, as dark as they come, and Griffo seems to go out of his way to make certain we don't like him.

In addition to fully fleshing out his characters, Griffo also pays careful attention to detail, painting each scene with lavish descriptions so the reader can actually place themselves in the scene. When an writer pays that much attention to detail, there's always a chance to losing the reader, who just wants to get on with the story, but everything in Unnatural is well-balanced, and the novel doesn't slow it's pace at all. Griffo also has a talent for ending each chapter at a point that urges the reader onward.

My only problem with Unnatural (and 9 times out of 10, I always have a problem with a book) is the use of italics to indicate change in character. The chapter may start from Michael's point of view, but then there is some internalized thought from Ronan, which leads to a switch in POV that is sometimes confusing. There were times I actually had to go back and find out when exactly the POV changed and from whose POV I was reading from. It is possible that it's a formatting error as I did read the book on my Kindle. I want to get my hands on a print copy to see if the POV changes are a little more clear cut.

Starting Unnatural, I was going in with prejudice; I was so ready not to like it. In fact, I wanted not to like it, but I did like it, damn it. Archangel Academy is a series I will be following, and when I mentioned that I wanted to get my hands on a print copy, it isn't just to check the formatting; this is one series that will be taking a permanent place on my shelves, right next to Kelley Armstrong, Casey Daniels, Mark Del Franco, Kim Harrison, Anton Strout, and Carrie Vaughn.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bigfoot Walks Again

The town of Babble Creek has fallen to the fury of Bigfoot, the population decimated. For those of you who have read Eric S. Brown's Bigfoot War, this is old news. But the fall of Babble Creek was only the beginning.

In the neighboring community of Jackson County, the citizens are unaware of what has befallen the residents of Babble Creek. Nor are they aware of the Hell that is about to be unleashed on their own community. But the quiet community has more to fear than the invading Bigfoot horde, for it seems those who have been attacked by the creatures have become infected with a virus, a virus that turns them into mindless savages with a insatiable craving for warm flesh. As the battle rages, the townsfolk not only have to defend themselves against the fury of the furry army, but against people they had once considered friends. Will Jackson County survive, or will it suffer the same fate as Babble Creek?

Since I had already read and enjoyed Brown's Bigfoot War, I was quick to purchase Bigfoot War 2: Dead in the Woods and move to to the top of my reading queue, although to be honest, I wasn't expecting much. In the first installment, Bigfoot lays waste to a small town. I expected more of the same, which in itself wouldn't be a bad thing. I mean, Bigfoot War was B-movie fun, non-stop action and loaded with blood and guts. In short, my kind of book. But with Part 2, Eric S. Brown realized that if he wanted to keep his audience, he needed to deliver more than what he already given us. . . And deliver he does.

When Brown takes Dead in the Woods to the next level by pulling in a currently trending element in today's horror fiction, I thought I was reading a faulty copy of the novel, that maybe an excerpt of another novel had accidentally been pasted into this one when it was being formatted. It came so out of left field, I sat there with a "What the f...?" expression on my face. Nevertheless, with a roll of the eyes, I persevered, quickly realizing that he was trying to pull in a new audience with this element. Combining these two elements in the one book is a bit far-fetched, but it does make for a fun read. I mean, if Bigfoot exists, why not?? I'm not going to spell out what else is introduced, but you can probably figure it out.

Like its predecessor, Dead in the Woods is non-stop action. It also stands out in that it does not follow formula. There is no designated hero or heroine; everybody is fair game in Brown's Bigfoot series, so be forewarned, don't go getting attached to any particular character, because they just might not make it through to the end.

The only drawback I had with Dead in the Woods was with the proofreading. There aren't many errors, but the ones that there are were enough to make me stumble while reading it, pulling me out of the flow of the story. That aside, is Bigfoot War 2: Dead in the Woods worth reading? I think so. It's one of those books you can take to the beach or lounge by the pool with. Do you need to read Part 1? While it's not necessary, as the action in this book stands on its own, I would strongly encourage it. And will I be reading Part 3 when it comes out? You betcha. With the combined elements contained within Dead in the Woods, I'm dying to know what Brown is going to pull into Part 3.

Touched by an Angel

I know, I know. But before you go jumping to conclusions, let me explain. For those of you who have been following my reviews, this book seems so out of place with the horror novels and urban fantasies I usually read, and in some of my reviews, I believe I have stated how I feel about romance. So why take the time to read a romance novel? Well, because I made a promise. And I keep my promises. It took me awhile to get around to reading it after I downloaded it to my Kindle because I had to prepare myself. Kind of like some people need to prepare themselves before going to see a horror film or picking up a horror novel. To me, romance is my horror. I cringe at the scenarios because they are usually so far-fetched, and the sex scenes are either badly written or so over the top with the heaving bosoms and the throbbing manhoods that I sit there rolling my eyes or, more often than not, tossing it aside. But a promise is a promise, so, taking a deep breath, I dove into Linda Boulanger's Arms of an Angel. . . and I couldn't put the damned thing down.

Claire Orion has it all: the money, the lifestyle most of us would envy, and, from the sounds of it, a string of men that would make a prostitute blush. But thanks to a misdiagnosis of cancer when she was younger and a verbally abusive father who constantly berated her for being less than a woman (because the surgery to remove the non-existent cancer left her unable to have children) that no man would ever want to marry, Claire feels her life is empty, which is why, when we meet her for the first time, she is planning her last hurrah before putting an end to her miserable life.

Dressed to the nines, Claire sets out for what is supposed to be her last supper, but thanks the ineptness of the restaurant's host, she has the good fortune (or misfortune) of meeting Garrett O'Bryan, a handsome man who is immediately taken with Claire. They end up spending the evening dining together and enjoying each other's company (Not in that way, so get your minds out of the gutter!). At the end of the evening, Claire does intend on inviting him up, but he declines. It seems Garrett has other plans. He makes Claire promise to meet him for Sunday Brunch. Reluctantly, she agrees, and being a woman of her word, there go her plans for the rest of the evening.

Each time she meets with Garrett, she tries to get him into bed, and each time he declines, which frustrates her to no end. It actually seems as if Garrett is interested in her, but she can't seem to wrap her head around that. After all, years of being told she's only half a woman no man would want have left her scarred.

So, does she finally get frustrated with trying unsuccessfully to get Garrett into bed that she goes ahead and kills herself? Is Garrett able to make her realize that there are men who can see past the fact that she can't have children and see her the person she once was, the person she buried all those years ago? You'll just have to read and find out.

With Arms of an Angel, Linda Boulanger has created a moving tale of a woman's journey through the darkness of her own soul. Right away you are moved by Claire, and you want to know what happened to this young woman, a woman who seems to have everything life could offer, that would drive her to want to take her own life. Once you find out what she has endured at such a young age, you want somebody to come along and show her that life is worth living and that she has so much to offer the world. Is Garrett that man, or do the scars run too deep for Claire to be saved?

For those who might be put off at the prospects of reading romance, don't be, not when it comes to Boulanger's tale. For one thing, it is short, so you won't have to suffer through it for long (which was my initial reaction when I first started it), BUT once you have started reading it, you forget all about the fact that it has been classified as a romance. At least that's the way it was for me. The romance came off as secondary. The focus of the novella was a woman's rediscovery of herself and overcoming the stigma her father had ingrained in her, that women are only good for reproduction and little else. It's about rediscovering life.

My only complaint with Arms of an Angel, and it's the same complaint I have with most well-written novellas, is that it was too short. It comes to a satisfying conclusion, but I found I wanted more. I wanted to know what happened after, which is the sign of a good writer.

I have to give kudos to Linda for opening my eyes that not all romance is insipid saccharine to be taken in small doses or eye-rolling bodice rippers. Part of me knew that already, but having to weed through them is the hard part. Should you pick up Arms of an Angel? Definitely. It's one of those novels that leave you with that "feel good" feeling at the end.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Chapter Excerpt from WIP -- URSA MAJOR

Collin Stewart’s fall from grace wasn’t a long one, but it was enough to knock the wind out of him and leave him with scraped palms and a bruised pride. The only one he felt, though, was the bruised pride. After all that he’d done to try to win Maureen back, to find out she was still carrying a torch for her dead husband was a sucker punch to the gut. Never would he have thought her capable of such deception, but he had been wrong. So wrong. She had ripped his heart out. Again.

All around him night had fallen, but he sat on the sidewalk, legs stretched out in front of him, in a pool of light cast by the faux carriage lanterns secured to the wall to either side of the door. He was vaguely aware of time passing, just as the passing cars in the street behind him barely registered. Nor did he notice the creeping shadows as they moved across the front of the building, thrown against the siding as a car across the street pulled out of a driveway and its headlights skimmed over the fence and garbage cans lined up at the edge of the front yard. Collin saw only the events of the evening as they replayed themselves across the movie screen of his mind, examining each moment minutely to determine where, exactly, things had gone wrong. It wasn’t like him to lose control the way he had, and he needed to figure out what it was that had caused him to unleash his anger and allow it free reign.

Things had been going relatively well, or as well as could be expected when her little brat was around. God, how he hated that kid. While Joey had a good blending of both his parents’ features, Collin only saw Alex when he looked at the boy, and that alone was enough to make him lose control. That man had stolen Maureen from him when they were in college, and seeing the man’s face peeking out through the face of the boy was almost more than he could stand. Every time he saw the kid, it was all he could do to keep from punching him in the face, but he controlled himself for Maureen’s sake, as well as his own. To harm the boy would ruin any chance he had getting Maureen back where she belonged. He supposed that was why he always ragged on Maureen about Joey’s lack of respect. He just wanted the kid to behave. Was that asking too much?

But as it was, each time the boy acted out, it was like Alex was still rubbing his face in the fact that Maureen had chosen to marry him instead of Collin. Whenever the boy acted like a smartass, which was most of the time when he was around, Collin had to use all of his restraint not to pound the boy’s face into an unrecognizable bloody pulp. It was the only way he could think of to stop seeing Alex in the boy. Collin knew his feelings toward the boy were irrational, but that’s how much he hated Alex Crawford.

Upon closer inspection, however, Collin realized it wasn’t the boy who had triggered his lapse of control this evening. Joey had been on his best behavior, more or less, so he couldn’t blame the boy.

Dinner had been subdued, which was a good thing. Had there been lively dinner conversation, the kind Collin envisioned a normal having as they ate, there was a chance Joey would mouth off, so it wasn’t dinner. It was after…

“Hey, buddy, you okay?”

The man’s voice disrupted the flow of images playing through Collin’s head, and it took him a moment to register that the voice was coming from behind him and was not, in fact, part of the memories he was revisiting.

“You okay,” the voice asked again.

Collin flinched, blinked away the images, and turned, bracing himself with one hand as he twisted to address the person talking to him. “Yeah,” he said, hissing against the pain that was suddenly biting at the palm of his hand. “I’m okay.” He struggled to get to his feet. “Misjudged the step is all. Lost my balance.”

The man gave a nod and continued on his way.

Alone once again, Collin brushed himself off and looked back at the house. The lights were still on in the living room, but there were no shadows visible at the window. Still, he couldn’t be sure that Maureen wasn’t watching from some other window. He briefly considered ringing the doorbell and apologizing to Maureen, but discarded the idea almost as quickly as it entered his mind. Things had gotten ugly, and he wanted to give her time to cool off before he approached her. He also needed to find out what had caused things to go downhill so quickly. He turned and, without another look at the house, left the yard, being considerate enough to close the gate behind him.

The street was quiet, but as he approached the corner he could hear music filtering out onto the street from the pool hall. A group of kids in their late teens were gathered outside, joking with each other as they smoked. He gave them a cursory glance as he passed them by on his way to the car, noticing one guy with his arm wrapped possessively around the waist of a young woman in tight jeans. He felt a pang of jealousy as she nuzzled the young man’s neck, and a familiar tightening in his briefs. At least somebody’s gonna get laid tonight, he thought bitterly as he continued on his way.

The light in the crosswalk was a bold, red DON’T WALK, and as he waited for the light to change to WALK, he watched a bus pull across the intersection. The bus was all practically empty: an old woman toward the front of the bus and the driver stared out the window, watching the world pass by with a vacant stare, and further back, two women in their later twenties chattered away. Once the bus passed, Collin had a view of the avenue. Across the way to the left, in the middle of the block, a bar was open. The music behind him drowned out any sound that might be issuing from the bar. To either side of the neon-stained windows, the store fronts were locked up tight, security gates pulled. A block away, on the far corner, a twenty-four hour fruit stand/grocery mart was open, their lighted windows a beacon in the otherwise darkened streets. A lone individual was unpacking a crate, loading the contents onto one of the outside display cases. To the right, for the next four or five blocks, there was nothing but darkened storefronts and the cyclopean glow of the traffic lights. Beyond that, there was a lighted marquis to the movie theater, but it was too far away to see what was playing. If he could block out the kids he had just passed, he could very well have been the last man on earth. Traffic was nonexistent, and there was not another soul on the street. To confirm that, he glanced at the fruit store again, and sure enough, the man had disappeared. It was eerie, considering it was a Friday night; the streets should have been bustling with activity, people making their way to the movie theater or to the clubs that dotted Fort Hamilton Parkway.

Collin didn’t want to go home. There were too many memories of Maureen there, memories he wasn’t quite ready to face yet. This neighborhood was deader than a ghost town.

The light blinked from the red DON’T WALK to the white WALK. Collin stepped off the curb and crossed the wide expanse of Fifth Avenue. The street before him was lined heavily with trees, their spreading canopies of foliage so thick overhead that they blocked out the glow of the streetlights. Fishing his car keys from his pocket, Collin started down the shadowy corridor, walking halfway down the street before veering to his left and stepping off the curb. He circled around the back of his Lincoln Town Car, opened the driver’s side door, and slid behind the wheel. After locking the door, he slipped the key into the ignition, but didn’t turn it. Instead, sitting there in the safety of his car, the tinted windows aiding the shadows in keeping him hidden from prying eyes, he turned his thoughts back to the events of the past few hours.

After dinner, he and Maureen sat in silence while Joey laughed hysterically at whatever sitcom was on the television. Collin couldn’t even remember the name of it or what the premise was; it was that forgettable. She’d taken the little brat up to bed, and what had he done while she was upstairs. He’d gotten up and gone into the kitchen for something to drink. That’s when things started to get fuzzy. Something he had seen in the kitchen, something…

Whatever it was, it had triggered a memory he thought he had buried long ago; he could hear his father’s voice whispering in his ear, She’ll never love you. Not like I do. And then phantom hands were touching him in places a father should never touch a son. He hated his father for what the man had done to him, but worse, he hated himself for liking it. Even now, as the memories caressed and stroked him, he felt his body responding to the ghostly touches.

Tears streamed down his face as he fought to suppress the sobs. What the hell had he seen? His hands were on the steering wheel, his grip so tight his knuckles were white. The echoes of his father’s voice, the memories of his unwanted advances crowded in the car with him, pressing against him, making it difficult to breath. “You’re dead, you bastard,” he gasped. “I buried you, God dammit! I buried you! Why can’t you stay dead?”

Long buried emotions fought their way to the surface like a ghoul clawing its way out of the grave. They broke through, leaving him a sobbing mess behind the wheel. Body hunched over, head resting against the stitched leather of the steering wheel, he was powerless to do anything but let the emotions out in a flood that could rival The Great Flood. The only difference, here there was no Noah and no Ark to save him. There was nobody he could turn to, nobody to throw him a life preserver. He had to ride it out. Only then would he be able to bury them again. But right now he needed to bury himself. Darkness reached out to pull him in, but not even the concrete bunker he had built in his head, the one with the steel door that had kept him safe as a child, could keep his father from following him into that shelter of his mind. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide from the ghosts of his past.