White Liesby Jeremy Bates
YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE A LIE MIGHT LEAD...
While driving to a charming village tucked away deep in the Cascade Mountains of eastern Washington, where she is to begin a new job teaching high school English, Katrina Burton picks up a young hitchhiker who turns out to be a drunken creep. Fearful for her safety, she lies about her destination in order to get him out
YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE A LIE MIGHT LEAD...
While driving to a charming village tucked away deep in the Cascade Mountains of eastern Washington, where she is to begin a new job teaching high school English, Katrina Burton picks up a young hitchhiker who turns out to be a drunken creep. Fearful for her safety, she lies about her destination in order to get him out of the car. But when she later discovers that he is a teacher at the same school, she finds herself feeding that initial lie with more lies.
Then Katrina meets Jack Reeves. Handsome, charismatic and strong, he is exactly what she needs to extricate her from the expanding network of lies. She falls fast and hard for him. But when Jack lands himself in the middle of a grisly murder, she must decide whether to turn him in--or tell yet another lie.
"An understated horror story that will remind readers what chattering teeth sound like." -Kirkus on Suicide Forest
"[A] short, sharp shocker...Bates writes persuasively from Brian's adolescent point of view, making the horror of his youthful reminiscences that much more intense." - Publishers Weekly on Black Canyon
"Jeremy Bates has written a great book that would make a great Hollywood screenplay!" - Suspense Magazine on The Taste of Fear
"Bates takes an intriguing premise to shocking lengths, revealing the outcome only in an epilogue. A graphically violent story with building suspense and a moral about where weaving such a web may lead." - Booklist on White Lies
"The Catacombs is a thrilling descent into the unknown, peeling back the dark layers like a rotting onion, tears running down your face as you try to climb your way out. A hypnotic story of buried truths, disfigured creatures, and lost histories told with an authoritative voice full of heart and insight." - Richard Thomas, Bram Stoker nominated author on The Catacombs
"Jeremy Bates doesn't miss a trick, teasing and misleading, ratcheting up the tension as the heroine...loses traction on a slippery slope of deceptions." - Glenn Kleier, New York Times bestselling author on White Lies
"A horror story like none other...makes for a read that will delight horror fans who want their novels steeped in psychological suspense as well as action." - Midwest Book Review on The Catacombs
"A success!" - Hellnotes on Suicide Forest
- Ghillinnein Books
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- 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.73(d)
Read an Excerpt
By Jeremy Bates
Oceanview PublishingCopyright © 2012 Jeremy Bates
All rights reserved.
The storm began when she was driving north on U.S. Highway 2, almost four thousand feet above sea level. The low-lying clouds, black and bloated, abruptly split open, as if slit by a surgeon's scalpel, letting loose a torrent of slanting rain. Flashes of white lightning and rumbles of thunder quickly followed. Wonderful, Katrina Burton thought, feeling as though a peeved-off God had just turned the hose on her. The road was already dangerous enough with all of its zigs and zags. Adding rain was about as helpful as polishing the ice on a slippery slope. She flicked the wipers on high, shooing away the water sloshing down the windshield. She turned up the radio so she could hear the song playing above the tat-tat-tat-tat on the roof. "Bad Moon Rising" by CCR. She liked classic rock, especially late sixties, early seventies stuff, so she got into it, singing the words she knew while humming the ones she didn't. Eventually she lost her mojo and gave it up altogether. There was only so long you could act the fool, even when you were by yourself, in a car, with not another soul around for miles.
She rubbed her eyes. They were getting sore from staring at the road for the past two hours, which continued to unfurl ahead of her like a long black carpet with no end. It was a tiny two-lane thing, winding up through the forested slopes of the Cascade Mountain Range in northern Washington. The pot of gold at the end was the town of Leavenworth, where she'd been offered a job teaching high school English. She didn't know yet whether she was more excited or nervous about starting this new chapter of her life. Probably right in the middle, which was about where she should be.
Her buddy sitting on the passenger seat beside her burped — at least she thought it was a burp. He made some strange noises sometimes. She glanced at the boxer: six years old, fawn coat, white socks on his feet, black rings around his eyes, like a rock star who'd gone a little nuts with the eyeliner. He was snoring softly, the sound muffled because his snout was tucked beneath his forepaws. He was adorable — a big, fat adorable piece of caramel. He let her sing, she let him snore. A match made in heaven. "Not nice weather, hey Bandit?" she said in that silly singsong way people do when speaking with animals, children, and anyone who's topped the big eight-oh. He cracked open an eye and gave her a half-baked look. You talkin' to me, sister? it seemed to say. She scratched him between the cropped ears. "It was a rhetorical question, bud. Go back to sleep." He yawned and did just that. No snoring this time. Not yet, at least.
The Honda's high beams flashed on a reflective yellow road sign that indicated an upcoming sharp turn. Katrina eased her foot off the accelerator. The last thing she wanted or needed right then was to slip off the slick road. She was in the middle of nowhere, God's country, and God was apparently not in the best of moods. He might decide to toss a lightning bolt her way for kicks. Moreover, her cell phone's battery was dead. She'd known that before leaving Seattle, but she'd had enough things on her mind and hadn't bothered charging it. Lazy, yes, but she couldn't do anything about it now. So if she did go slip sliding and found herself grill over trunk in a ditch, AAA would not be an option. She would have to stay put until another car came along, which might not be for a considerable amount of time. She'd seen only two vehicles pass her in the opposite direction during the past half hour. A small sedan and a tractor trailer loaded with what she'd thought was raw lumber.
The bend appeared. Banking left, Katrina tapped the brakes, slowing to less than ten miles an hour. Halfway around it, she was surprised to see the dark smudge of a person shuffling along the narrow shoulder. The person's back was to her, but judging by the height and build, it appeared to be a man. Her approach was masked by the storm because he seemed oblivious to the fact she was creeping up behind him until the headlights threw his elongated shadow ahead of him, as if it had been spooked out of his body. He spun around. His arms were folded across his chest, to ward off the chill of the rain. He stuck a thumb in the air, using his other hand to shield his eyes from the rain and light. His red T-shirt and jeans were drenched. His dark hair was plastered to his skull, framing a boyish face.
Katrina drove past without slowing. Cruel? Maybe. Smart? Absolutely. No way was she picking up a stranger. She was a single white female, and it was a dark and stormy night. She'd seen the movies. But as her eyes lifted to the rearview mirror, and she caught the man — boy? — staring after her, something inside her crumpled. She began to reconsider. What was he doing way out here at this time of night in the midst of a thunderstorm? Surely not soliciting a potential victim. So was he lost then? Or worse, had he been in an accident?
"Dammit," she said, torn. "What do you think, Bandit? Give him a lift?"
Bandit raised his sleepy head and barked once, loud and sharp. It was either a yes or a plea to let him sleep in peace. She took it as a yes and eased the car to the shoulder of the road. Wet gravel crunched under the tires as she rolled to a stop. She glanced in the rearview mirror again and saw the boy hurrying toward his ride. Her reservation vanished. She was helping someone. She felt the way she did when she tossed a homeless guy a couple bucks: warm and fuzzy inside. Bandit knew something was up. He leapt to his feet, his blunt muzzle jointing wide in what could be interpreted as a doggy smile. Apparently he thought they were getting out to stretch their legs. He loved two things in life more than anything else. Going for a walk around the block, and roadside rest areas — especially ones populated with unsuspecting children ripe for harassing.
"Not now, buddy," she told him. "Get in the back." She patted the top of one of the suitcases stacked on the backseat. Bandit gave her a pleading say-it-ain't-so look. She was having none of it. "Go on, go."
He made a snort and a disapproving "woo woo," the same noise he would make if his Kibbles 'n Bits weren't fixed quickly enough. Spoiled dog. She was going to have to start enforcing a little more tough love around the house. Head hanging low, Bandit clambered reluctantly between the seats, turned in a tight circle, and settled down on the suitcase. If dogs could sulk, he'd be sulking. Katrina punched off the radio — just the DJ doing his spiel — and waited. Rain drummed on the roof of the car. The windshield wipers thumped back and forth, back and forth, almost mesmerizing. The passenger door opened, letting in a burst of wet alpine air. The boy climbed in. The green glow from the cluster of dashboard instrument gauges illuminated his features clearly for the first time, and Katrina was surprised and slightly alarmed to discover he appeared older than she'd initially believed, perhaps early twenties. He was also bigger than she'd guessed. Six feet give or take an inch, though thin and bony. His knees touched the glove compartment. She didn't know what that meant exactly, his size, only that it didn't make her feel as confident as she had moments before when she was feeling warm and fuzzy. She was about to tell him he could slide the seat back but decided she didn't want him to get comfortable. She wouldn't be taking him far. Leaven-worth was only thirty minutes away, at most.
He closed the door with a bang that seemed to shake the car. Katrina could hear an echo of her mother's voice from years past: Don't slam the door, Trina! He ran his hands through his hair, brushing it back from his face.
"What were you doing out there in this storm?" she asked him, trying for nonchalance.
"Car broke down," he said bluntly. "How the hell do you turn up the heat? I'm goddamn freezing."
Katrina was slightly taken by the rough language. Still, she pointed to the temperature gauge, which the hitchhiker cranked to the maximum. A roar of warm, stale air blew through the vents.
"What was wrong with your car?" she pressed. She didn't care.
She was just trying to break the ice — and ease her nerves a bit. "Flat."
He tilted his head back against the headrest and closed his eyes. Going to sleep? she wondered. A little rude, but fine. He wasn't exactly proving to be the best of company. But had she really expected him to be Prince Charming? A guy trudging down the highway at a little past midnight on a Friday night? No, she'd expected a polite young man who'd be appreciative she'd picked him up. Then again, according to him, his car had broken down, and he'd been in the storm long enough to get soaked to the skin — so he had the right to be a little cranky, didn't he? She knew she would be.
She put the car in drive and angled back onto the highway.
The boy-man burped. She frowned. She didn't care that he'd burped. It was a natural bodily reflex. Bandit did it all the time — only Bandit's burps didn't smell like Scotch. Smart, Kat, smart. Pick up a six-foot-something drunk stranger. She shook her head. She was milking melodrama, and she knew it. The possibility he might be drunk concerned her a little, but it certainly didn't fill her with fear. Everyone got drunk now and then. Hell, she did it a little more than she probably should. So what? It didn't turn you into an axe murderer. Didn't mean you started carrying a hunting knife tucked up your sleeve. Besides, she had Big Bad Bandit with her. He might not be a killer attack dog. Actually, he wasn't even big and bad — more like loyal and loving. But he was still a good sixty pounds, all muscle — he only looked like a fat piece of caramel — and he could be quite intimidating if he wanted to be.
A number of miles passed. More black and winding road. More rain. More silence. Gradually Katrina's thoughts turned from the hitchhiker to the bungalow she was renting in Leavenworth. She already had the keys. There were three of them attached to a Niagara Falls keychain: front door, side door, and a smaller bronze one, the purpose of which she wasn't sure. Mailbox? Milkbox? Secret cellar laboratory? The real estate agent had given the set to her two weeks before, when they'd met in a Starbucks to sign the two-year lease. The bungalow was only semifurnished. Fridge, stove, washing machine, not much else. There wasn't even a bed. But the owners — an old couple who had fled to Sacramento to be close to their children and grandchildren — had left behind a futon, which was what Katrina would use her first few nights until the movers brought the rest of her belongings and furniture later this week. Not that she was complaining. Any excuse to do some shopping was a good excuse. She was looking forward to puttering around town this weekend, picking up some plants, pillows, art, and whatever else she saw that would make her home more, well, homey.
Far off in the distance lightning flashed, backlighting the bowels of the storm clouds. It was an awesome sight, awesome power. It put you in your place, a tiny thing of flesh and blood and bone. Rightly humbled, Katrina's thoughts returned to the hitchhiker, and she realized she'd never asked where he was heading to. His decidedly unimpressive first impression had blanked the question from her mind. She glanced at him, to ask him where to, and was both startled and embarrassed to find his eyes now open, staring at her legs. Creepy Christ. She self-consciously tugged down the hem of her skirt, which had risen a few inches up her thighs during the long trip. Certainly not high enough to scream skank, but enough to garner disapproving glances during Sunday Mass in church — and approving glances from hitchhikers who slammed doors and burped Scotch.
"What's your name?" he asked her.
"I'm just making conversation."
"Katrina," she said.
"I never asked you, Zach. How far are you going?"
"Depends. How far are you going?"
It was a logical question, but suddenly Katrina wasn't sure she wanted to tell him.
Oh, come on, Kat, she thought chidingly. So what if he's in his twenties. And so what if he's had a few drinks. You've been through the argument. It doesn't mean he's looking for a blonde trophy to hang above the fire-place.
No, maybe not, a different voice shot back. But if he's been drinking, he shouldn't have been driving, should he have? And think back a bit. Do you remember seeing any cars broken down along the side of the road? Because you would have noticed one, wouldn't you have? You're not exactly driving down I-5 in L.A.
She did not remember seeing any broken-down cars. A chill whisked through her. Maybe she had been a bit too premature in picking up a stranger. But what was she supposed to do about that now? It was too late to tell him, "Sorry, pal, I made a mistake, you're rather weird so please get out. Thanks very much. No hard feelings, right?"
"How far you going?" Zach repeated. She could feel his eyes on her.
"Just up to the next turnoff," she told him, surprising herself with the lie.
Sure, she thought. Why not? "Yes," she said.
He nodded. It was the most effort he'd put into the conversation thus far. "Nice area. You live there?"
She hesitated again. She didn't like the direction this was heading.
"Just a question," he said.
"I have Bandit with me."
At the sound of his name, Bandit let out a happy bark. The man jumped. He cranked his head around on his neck and flinched when he saw Bandit on all fours, grinning at him. The boxer barked a second time, louder than the first. Good boy.
"Will you tell that goddamn thing to shut up?"
"Quiet, boy," she said, telling herself she would fix his kibbles on time for the rest of the week. For the rest of the month.
"Big dog," the man muttered, facing forward again.
Under more regular circumstances, Katrina would have said, "He's harmless." But now she said, "He's very protective."
"So what do you and bowwow do out there on the lake, Kat? Must get kinda boring, huh?"
Her jaw tightened. There was something about the way he said "Kat" that gave her the creeps. It seemed almost — lecherous. What she imagined a man in a rusty, beat-up Oldsmobile might sound like as he offered candy to a guileless child. A golf ball-size nugget of dread formed in the center of her chest.
"I'd prefer it if you didn't call me that," she said.
"Kat? Why not?"
"I'd just prefer it."
"Whatever." Anger? She didn't know. Snide, definitely. "So," he went on, "it must get pretty lonely out there by yourself? You get much company?"
"Listen, Zach," she said, mustering forth her teacher's voice. "I don't think these questions are appropriate."
"I don't know you."
Silence. Tense and long. Katrina wondered how the boy-turned-man-turned-creep was going to react to that candid statement. Like one of her students, who would swallow his or her pride to avoid detention? Or like a bad drunk who'd lash out at whomever, whenever, just because he couldn't help himself? She didn't know. She was having a hard time getting a read on the guy. He was rude and obnoxious, even somewhat intimidating. But there was something else about him, just a feeling she was getting, that it was all an act. A bit of tough guy bravado. Puffing out the chest, sucking in the gut kind of thing.
Excerpted from White Lies by Jeremy Bates. Copyright © 2012 Jeremy Bates. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Jeremy Bates has spent the last ten years traveling the world, visiting more than thirty countries. He has lived in Canada, the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. Bates is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario with a degree in English literature and philosophy and is a teacher in international schools.
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