Tony Stanford, a self-taught writer and a native of southeast Missouri, was born and raised on Crowley’s Ridge and lives his life in and around the Ozarks.
Book One Dark Skies
by Tony Stanford
Book One Dark Skies
by Tony Stanford
Published Aug 22, 2018
Genre: FICTION / Thrillers / Suspense
Book One, Dark Skies:
There is a way that seems right unto a person, but the way thereof is the way of death.
It is the 1960’s. Above the rich Native American city of NuSprings, Missouri, the sky is turning dark with a deadly storm brewing on the horizon. Suicide Affair is a multi-book story of how lives crisscross and intertwine. Some affairs, no matter how exciting or appealing, are suicidal when pursued.
Dark, intriguing, and sometimes chilling, Dark Skies pulls you down a path you would never wish to go: Rita, a child lost on the path, wanders a dark stormy world of loneliness and survival. Her worst fear is not being raised by the monster who murdered her mother, but the shadows that threaten to eat her soul. Garth, a boy with a good soul, is pushed onto the path and pulled into its darkness through revenge and murder. RiverDawg, an aging witch doctor, plays on the path and toys with those who venture down it. People are his entertainment. Quillpen Jack, a Native American boy hoping one day to become a great warrior, discovers the path is not only dark, but deadly. Will he survive? Will any of them survive the coming storm?
The Forsaken Queen
“Where ya think you’re going?” Seven-year-old Rita heard her pa shout from downstairs.
“It’s Thursday. I always go to town on Thursdays,” her mother answered.
Rita picked up her baby doll, went to her little wooden rocking chair, and began to rock. Another storm was brewing.
“Don’t lie to me, whore! I know what you do on Thursdays.”
“Why you deny it?”
“Why you care?”
“You’re my wife, Joanna!”
“I’m your property. I’ll never be your wife!”
“Maybe, but not yours!”
“I oughta kill ya.”
Putting a toy bottle in baby’s mouth, Rita spoke softly, “It’s okay, baby. They’re just being stormy today. They have stormy spirits.”
“Don’t do me any favors. Besides, if it weren’t for my precious angel upstairs, I’d have killed myself long ago.”
There was moment of silence, then Joanna continued, “You won’t kill me.”
“You’re too pathetic. Have you forgotten the way you look? Look in the mirror. You’re a monster! Who would live with such a hideous creature? You barely look human! Why, I’d rather screw anyone than you!”
Rita’s pa bellowed out a thunderous roar! Something went crashing against a wall. Rita heard her mother scream. She heard the front door slam as someone fled outside. Rita jumped out of her rocker running to the window. She expected to see her pa chase down her mother and pound her with his fists. She had seen it before.
Rita watched her mother make it to her car. She watched her get in. She heard the car start. Although she couldn’t see her pa, she could hear him yelling threats and curses from the porch. Rita saw a whisky bottle sail through the air and shatter against the car. Rita didn’t know why her parents fought so much. Why they hated each other so.
“Hush now, don’t cry,” Rita cradled her baby, transferring her emotions to the doll as tears ran down her own cheeks. “Mommy will take care of you.” It was the kind of sentiment her mother often spoke to her. Rita kissed the baby’s forehead as she watched her mother speed away in a cloud of dust. “Mommy will be back,” Rita whispered to the doll. “She loves us.”
Rita could hear her pa downstairs storming. He was yelling bad words and breaking things. Hearing her pa charge back outside again, she looked out the window and down at her pa. He was in a rage! A big angry beast roaring obscenities to the sky. He ran to his pickup, got in, and took off.
Rita watched his truck fade in the distance in a cloud of dust.
She was now alone, and all was silent.
Suddenly, there was a creaking noise from somewhere in the house. Rita’s head jerked in the direction from where she thought the noise came. She was in her room. Her door partially closed. Of course, not being able to see through walls, she couldn’t see what had caused the noise.
From downstairs came another noise.
Holding her baby, Rita pulled the cover from the bed and squatted in the corner covering her and the doll. She hated being alone. The big old house was spooky. There were always noises. Shadows, her pa told her.
The dark ghosts didn’t like kids, he told her. They haunted little kids. The mean ones would try to scare little kids to death and then eat their souls.
He said ghosts loved the taste of little girls the most. Little girls had sweet-tasting souls. As sweet as candy, he said.
Rita was sure it was true. Even her mother told her that little girls were made of sugar, spice, and everything nice.
If she stayed hidden under the cover and kept very quiet, maybe the shadows wouldn’t take notice her and leave her be.
Coming to a railroad crossing, Joanna eased forward to see where the train was. She heard the whistle so it had to be close. However, the surrounding fields of corn made it difficult to see down the tracks. She decided to play it safe and take the time to touch up her makeup. It was hot, and the roads dusty.
Reaching up to adjust the car’s mirror, she saw her so-called husband come to a flying stop behind her. He jumped out of his truck. She quickly rolled up the windows and locked the doors. Jerking and pulling on the door, she listened as he cussed and threatened to pound her face in. He smacked the window with his fist. She was surprised it didn’t break. Realizing he couldn’t get in, he ran back to his vehicle. Joanna looked down the tracks again. The train was in view and too close. She grabbed her purse for the gun, but remembered she had taken it out and not put it back. She cursed. She had been waiting for a moment like this for a long time. She was going to kill the monster. End the storm in her and her daughter’s life.
Homer rammed his truck into the back of her car. She dropped the purse as her body and head were jerked violently backward. Before she could get a handle on what was happening or how to save herself, the car was pushed forward onto the tracks. She screamed an eternal scream watching the locomotive crash into her.
The car littered the tracks on both sides. Deputy Sheriff Sawyer Hobb stood about the wreckage as a rescue team worked to free the mangled and dismembered body from what was left of the car. He could feel the hollowness of death hanging in the atmosphere. An unnerving disruption in the continuum of life leaving him disturbed with a sickly feeling in the pit of his stomach. It was the worst, most gruesome wreck he had ever seen!
“Apparently the Pierces’ phone is down. The operator can’t get through,” a fellow officer interrupted Sawyer’s thoughts.
Sawyer looked at the officer, “We’ll have to drive out to the place. It’s probably better we do.”
“What about her parents? Shall I try contacting them?”
“Don’t trouble yourself; she’s been dead to them for years.” Sawyer turned and stepped away.
Sawyer watched the rescue team free the body from the wreckage. He retched. Her alluring body, now mangled was barely recognizable.
Accompanied by another officer, Sawyer stepped up onto the porch of the big three-story house of Homer Pierce. Using the knocker, he couldn’t help but notice how run-down and neglected the place had become. He heard footsteps moving toward the door, and as it opened he found himself staring into the blank face of Homer Pierce. Shirtless and holding a bottle of whiskey, it was impossible to overlook the scars that completely covered his shoulder and chest.
Sawyer’s eyes were immediately drawn to Pierce’s scarred and unseemly face. It was ghastly and repulsive. It was most alarming if one wasn’t prepared for it. Grotesquely scarred on one side of his face and body, Homer had been trapped in a fire years before that claimed the lives of his parents.
“What d’you want?”
Before the fire, he was a nice-looking person from an upper-class family. He was considered a “catch” and popular with the ladies. After the fire, he was looked upon as a freak and abandoned by not only the ladies in his life, but most of his male friends as well. Joanna had been forced into a marriage with him as punishment. Homer wasn’t likely to get a wife any other way.
Fighting the urge to shy away from Homer’s horrifying looks, Sawyer looked past him. He didn’t see the little girl anywhere. Turning his eyes back to Homer, he said, “I’m afraid we have bad news concerning your wife.”
Little Rita suddenly appeared from around the door, her big eyes filled with concern.
“Could we speak in private?” Sawyer asked as his heart sank. Marks on her legs showed she had been recently strapped.
She’s not my child, Sawyer told himself.
Homer turned and gave Rita a shove backward from the door. “Go play or sump’n!” His voice was harsh and uncaring. He shut the door, stepping onto the porch. “Get on with it! What’s the whore went and done now?” He raised the bottle to his lips.
Returning to the sheriff’s office, Sawyer did the paperwork. He couldn’t get the look on little Rita’s face out of his mind. What would her life be like now? If there was ever a victim in life it was she. No telling the horrors she would have to live with, or, for that matter, was presently living with. Her tale, just beginning, would be a harsh one.
Justice? What a joke! Did it even exist?
Sawyer stepped out into the night, the face of little Rita haunting his thoughts.
She’s not my child, he said again.
His car came to a stop at a local bar.
As he became drunk, he couldn’t keep his mind from wandering in the past and thinking about Joanna. About little Rita JoGael. The first time he laid eyes on the child, she was nearly three. Light brown hair, bright green eyes, and a meek disposition, she was as cute as a button.
He was on patrol one day when he happened to cross paths with Joanna and the child. Having been such good friends only three years before, he and Joanna had a brief conversation.
Joanna introduced little Rita to him. “This used to be a friend of Mommy’s,” she said with a touch of sourness. “Can you say ‘Hi’ to the man?” Rita raised a hand and wiggled her fingers and smiled bashfully before burying her face into her mother’s shoulder.
“She’s a little timid sometimes,” Joanna said looking from Rita back up at Sawyer. “I suspect she’ll grow out of it one of these days.”
“She’s a beautiful little girl,” Sawyer said as he traced a finger down her soft cheek.
“Yes, she is,” Joanna kissed Rita on the forehead. “My sweet little angel.” Looking back into the eyes of Sawyer, her expression taking on a bitter edge, she said, “My guess is that she’s a Hobb. Has your brownish color hair, your green eyes, your smile—wouldn’t you say?”
“Come, Rita. Monster-Pa will be angry if we dally.” Pushing herself past Sawyer, she spoke to Rita, “Someday, maybe some brave knight will come and take us far away to a magical place filled with love and happiness.”
Watching Joanna march away, Sawyer thought, Anyone would be proud to have such a pretty little girl for a daughter. Or even Jo Gael for a wife. Sawyer ordered another drink. There was nothing he could do now. Even if little Rita was his child, she wasn’t his child now.
She was a Pierce. Legal and true.
Little Rita JoGael, clutching her baby tightly in her arms, cried bitterly into her pillow. She couldn’t let her pa hear her crying again. If he did, he said he would feed her to the shadows and be done with her!
Rita cried as hard and as silently as she could.
Her mommy was gone!
Who would love her now?
Who would keep her safe?
Who would keep the dark ghosts away?
Who would stop them from eating her soul?