The Last Resort
Since the release of the girls in Cleveland OH from their kidnapper there have been a lot of question. Chief among them – at first – was why they didn’t escape. Then the details began to come out – the chains, the locked doors, the withheld foods. And of course the beatings.
CBS News did a special report on battered spouses. As if it was something new. And of course, the reporter asked the same questions of the woman they interviewed. It was more understandable from the kidnap victims, but he got the same answers. Why didn’t she call for help? No cell phone. Why didn’t she escape, run? The doors were locked from the outside. He mentioned that many victims take up to seven tries to successfully escape. What he didn’t mention was that it’s also the most dangerous time for the victim. The time when she’s most likely to be killed by her spouse.
How do I know so much? Experience. I was one of the lucky ones, though. It only took two tries for me to escape. Why two tries at all? Well, there’s a pastor who owes me his life, because if I told him the truth when he asked or didn’t go home with my ask, we’d both be dead. Along with all those folks in the church.
When anyone asks me which book I would choose as the best book I’ve ever written, The Last Resort is one of them. Surprisingly, for its topic it’s also fun and heartwarming. I wrote it that way deliberately for several reasons – I wanted to show someone who had moved on, and because I wanted to write an entertaining book that wasn’t preachy. It’s the only book I’ve ever written in the first person, and it has some amazing characters. Real and unreal. I’ll leave you to figure out which is which. *grinning* Someday, as planned, I’ll write the sequel.
Review – Ms Douglas crafts a fine tale of romance, intrigue and suspense. Her characters draw you in and you feel that if you met Carrie on the street you would probably recognize her. Carrie has her own demons to battle as she wages war against the foes of others.
When Jack Spencer, the Head of Security for Fairview Mountain Resort, calls to about a missing coed, computer tech and sometimes troubleshooter Carrie Anderson answers. The last thing the resort needs is bad publicity. Jack knows that on the side Carrie is part of a team that help domestic violence victims escape their homes and abusers.
Complicating things for Carrie is the handsome new attorney that just joined the team.
What she finds, though, will test her skills at making people disappear and put all their lives in danger.
The Lutheran Church, Pastor Charles, bless his heart. He was young and a little too naïve, a big, gangly, lanky man, but he wasn’t a bad pastor. There was one car in the church parking lot. A beat up old Chevy. Not the Pastor’s car. The parsonage for the church was down the street on the other side.
Sometimes it just went like this, nothing for a couple of months, and then suddenly a bunch of calls.
I headed for the door to the church, knocking just as Drew’s Volvo pulled into the lot. He’d wasted no time. That was a good sign. On the other hand, maybe he just wanted to make sure I knew he took this seriously. The thought he was trying to impress me pleased me more than it should have.
It was a small church, with the Pastor’s office and the Sunday school in the basement. I opened the door and held it for Drew.
“What have we got?”
“I don’t know yet,” I said, as I stepped inside the little entryway.
There was a short flight of stairs up into the Sunday school hall, and to the right, a longer flight of stairs down to the pastor’s office in the basement.
Pastor Charles poked his head out of the door at the bottom of the stairs. “We’re down here.”
He stepped out as we came down. “She’s quite upset. Her name is Sandy Miller.”
From the office I heard a bark, a little sharp one. Unmistakable. She’d brought a puppy. I blew out a breath. And what else?
He smiled ruefully. “She brought her dog.”
Oddly enough, I didn’t think that was a good sign.
We stepped inside.
Sandy Miller was a nervous wreck, pacing uneasily. Also, not a good sign. It wasn’t the agitation, victims were usually scared, but something about the quality of her tension. There were two children on the floor, one about eight, one about five, and both were far too quiet. The puppy bounced between them yipping, wanting to play. The children weren’t in a playing mood.
“Pastor,” Sandy blurted, “I’m so scared.”
With his sweet gentleness, he gestured at Drew and I. “These people are here to help you.”
“He’s really bad, really,” she said. “I’m so scared.”
She was moving very stiffly, as if her back hurt her.
“Okay,” I said, gently. “Are you sure you want to leave?”
“Yes, oh, yes,” she said. “Now. We have to hurry. When he finds out we’re gone… He said he was going to check on us. Make sure everything was okay.”
Warning bells were going off. Loudly. I took a deep breath but my heart was suddenly pounding.
“How often? How long ago?”
The look Drew gave me told me he was picking up on the concern in my tone.
She looked at me sorrowfully. “An hour, maybe. He called, just to check on me. I already had everything packed. I grabbed the kids, but they wouldn’t leave the dog, so I ran back inside to get it and then ran out the door.”
Some part of her knew. Oh, shit. Talk about a baptism by fire. Oh, I hoped we had time.
“Pastor, get the puppy if you would, Sandy get the children.”
I was hooking my hands-free over my ear and pushing speed dial. “Code,” was all I said when Moira picked up. I hung up instantly. “Let’s go.”
All of us heard the sound of a car in the parking lot, hitting the gravel in a hurry, a bit of a skid.
One of the kids started crying as instinctively I hit the stairs two at a time, praying to get to the door first. The car door slammed even as I shot the lock home. Drew and the Pastor were both in the hallway.
“Are there any other doors unlocked?” I hissed.
“The front doors.”
“Try to keep the children quiet. Bring everyone out into the hallway so he can’t look through the windows.”
Both my shoes were off and I was sprinting through the building to the front of the church. It was a small church, very local. Come on, come on, I told myself as I tried to figure out how to lock them. Drew reached across from behind me and shot the bolt home. I jumped about a foot. He damn near scared the shit out of me.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, quietly.
“Too many things to explain right now.” I was already heading for the one window that would give me a clear view of the parking area as someone banged on the door.
“Sandy!” a voice shouted. “Sandy! I know you’re in there. Come on, honey. It’s okay. I’ll be good. I just got a little mad. It won’t happen again. I promise.”
He banged on the door again, the force of it belying his words. He was pissed. He’d seen the car and knew she was here.
Carefully, I peered out the window. Looked again. Ready to duck if he looked the wrong way, I took a closer look, trying to keep out of view. He was pacing in front of the door. There was something about the way his jacket was hanging. Then I was running barefooted through the church again, Drew close behind. I gestured him through the basement door and pulled it quietly shut behind me.
A very frightened Sandy Miller crouched with her children at the end of the hall. The Pastor was looking very bewildered.
“Sandy,” I whispered. Please don’t say yes. “Does your husband own a gun?”
Slowly, with big eyes, she nodded.
This was worst case scenario, all my preparations and plans undone. I nodded, hitting speed dial.
“Moira, call them off.”
I hung up. “Does he know where the parsonage is?”
Pastor Charles nodded, his face paling.
I darted quickly into the office, grabbed the phone, and dragged it out of the office.
“Call your wife, tell her to get out of the house. Go to the nearest neighbor’s. She’s to go now.”
If Sandy’s husband got no answer here at the church, that’s where he’d go next.
I dialed 911 on my cell phone.
“There’s a man with a gun at the Lutheran Church in Fall Meadows.”
“Stay on the line, please, I’m relaying to dispatch now.” I hit mute on my end, so I could hear her on the other end but I could still talk.
There was a bathroom down here, if I remembered correctly. No windows and a door. It would be crowded, but it would be one more door between us and him. “Sandy, take your children in the bathroom. It’s the door across from you.”
Pounding on the door upstairs. Thud. Thud. Thud.
“Sandy, I know you’re here. Come out here now.” The voice changed, wheedling. “Come on, Sandy. I’m not mad. I’m not.”
I slipped into the pastor’s office and peered up through the window, looking again, just to be sure. Wanting very badly to be wrong. Drew, standing next to me, was keeping in the shadows, looking up at the man now pacing impatiently away from the door.
Youngish, average height, brown hair, and eyes. A light windbreaker hanging heavily to one side. Something big and weighty in that pocket. He stuck his hand in the pocket, closed his hand around it, and wiggled it around.
“Do you see?” I whispered. He nodded, his eyes steady. Bless that.
We backed quickly away.
“Without seeing it for certain, I’m pretty sure that’s what it is,” I said, softly. “A gun.”
“How did you know?”
I let out a breath. “Instinct, I guess. I didn’t, for certain, but something about the level of fear. The way she ran, and the place she came. She’s young, she has parents, a family. She didn’t go to them, instead she went the one place she thought he might think twice about. Church.”
Twenty percent of all profit made from The Last Resort will go to victims of Domestic Violence.
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Of all my books, perhaps The Last Resort is the most conflicted. It’s also the book one of my beta readers swears is the best I’ve ever written. It’s the book that nearly won a contest, but won one of the judges’ hearts – she asked to be notified if it ever reached print. (It has!) It’s also the book that receives the most mixed reviews – primarily a complaint that too much is going on. Which I have to admit makes me laugh even as I struggle with it.
Because life is messy, and complicated, and so much of events of The Last Resort are based on reality. Events that took place almost exactly as they happen in the book, and at the same time. Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty. Or innocent. I have to admit to being tempted to hold a contest asking readers to tell me which characters in The Last Resort are real…and which aren’t. I’m also grateful that some of the participants in those events are probably dead by now although I doubt they’d recognize themselves. People never do.
One reviewer even commented on the level of detail, objecting to a mention of the heroine raking leaves. Yet that rake shows up in a later scene. As a writer I had to explain why it was so conveniently placed there. I had to make it real.
Even the ‘rescue rangers’ are based in truth. Some time ago, I read about a woman who had organized a group of retired cops and ex-service people to help battered women escape their abusers. It was difficult and dangerous work, as they and any police officer could tell you.
I sometimes wonder if people have just seen too many Lifetime movies where the victim escapes into the arms of the one man who will love her, who will fight for her, and in the end save her from her abuser.
In real life, that just doesn’t happen. Most women who escape run to their families (where their batterers frequently find them) or live in shelters on subsistence. They have no money because their abusers made sure they had no access to any. Most are ashamed.
When they do call for help, they frequently panic immediately afterward. Many times cops become caught between the abuser and the victim, because the victim is all too aware that the laws don’t really protect her. In all likelihood her abuser will be back out on the street within hours. And looking for her. Unless she finds a shelter – most counties don’t have domestic violence shelters – he’ll very likely find her. A protection from abuse order is worth the paper it’s written on, it’s a formality that must be part of the record…but one that is almost guaranteed to infuriate the abuser – who never considers himself the bad guy. It’s shaming, and inflaming for them.
Leaving is the most dangerous time for most women, and the time when most die. One to three women in the United States daily.
So I wrote The Last Resort from my own experience, and it translated fairly easily. All the events in the book took place around the same time.
What I didn’t want to write was just another domestic violence book. I didn’t want it to be primarily about domestic violence. I wanted to write something that would be entertaining as well. I wanted the book to balance what I frequently see as a culture of constant victim-hood, with women and those around them defining themselves always by this one event for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I wanted to write about someone who would give women hope, an example of someone who had broken the chains of domestic violence. I wanted to write a book about a woman who had not only survived, but thrived and grew stronger because of it. I also wanted to show that it was possible to love and be loved again, to have a healthy relationship.
Someone like me.
Twenty percent of all the proceeds of The Last Resort will go to charities benefiting the victims of domestic violence.
Available from Amazon.com – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0052UX3V6
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This Veterans Day weekend, Indie Book Collective’s Blog Tour de Troops is giving back to the men and women who safeguard our freedom.
50 Indie Authors will be giving away their book to every person who comments + a book to the soldier of their choice. And…as many troops as possible will also be receiving FREE KINDLES!
Remember to visit this blog on Monday, November 14th! and leave a comment to receive a free ebook (Heart of the Gods) for you and a soldier & be entered to win a free Kindle!
Please enjoy Heart of the Gods…
and Servant of the Gods
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Servant of the Gods
A child of prophecy, in her life she would bear three names, one as a peasant and mercenary, yet another after she was captured and enslaved. Despite it all she would rise to become Priestess of Isis and High Priestess of all Egypt and face her greatest challenge…an nearly immortal evil.
It was late in the afternoon when they came within sight of the tall, thick walls of the fort, slowing to a canter as they approached.
An eerie silence prevailed, unbroken by the sound of the birds that normally scavenged the refuse and detritus of the fort’s dunghill. All they heard was the wind blowing over the sand, a soft ominous hiss.
Khai looked to the walls.
They were empty. The gates were open wide, almost in invitation. No one could seen, within or without.
Something was badly wrong.
Instinctively, nervously, the archers strung their bows and carried them at the ready as the charioteers held their horses on a tight rein, the animals tossing their heads restlessly.
At Irisi’s side, Nebi made an anxious noise low in his throat, shaking his mane uneasily as his tail twitched.
Unsettled as well, Irisi reached behind her to loosen her swords in their scabbards.
The towers at each corner were unoccupied, as was the interior as far as they could see through the narrow aperture of the open gates. Nothing moved beyond them. The garrison should have been bustling with men drilling and patrols coming and going. Especially in light of the stories they’d heard.
Everyone looked around nervously as they rode through the gates in the outer wall.
No one challenged their right to enter. Shadows pooled unnaturally beneath the walls.
They passed through the first wall then through the second and into open marshalling yard.
To all appearances, the complex of barracks and buildings was completely empty. The square before them was barren, no soldiers drilled, no one repaired their gear or sharpened their swords, nor did the commandant come to greet them.
It was unnatural, eerie and disquieting. The entire garrison seemed to have vanished.
A silence unlike any other, broken only by the whistling of the wind, surrounded them.
“How many?” Irisi whispered.
Khai shook his head. “A hundred, perhaps more.”
The enormity of it…
With gestures, Khai split his people and sent them scouting carefully through the complex.
He and Irisi dismounted to cautiously approach the commandant’s quarters.
They could see nothing within the shadows of the entry but those shadows seemed darker than usual.
Nebi pressed protectively close to Irisi. Out of habit, she rested her hand on his head, her fingers in his mane.
Darkness seemed to press against her, though the sun was still high in the sky. Something was wrong… The closer they walked to the commander’s quarters the more disturbed she felt. She tried to tell herself it was her imagination.
Malevolent… Evil… Gathering…
With a great coughing roar, Nebi suddenly crouched.
“Khai,” Irisi shouted and threw herself at him.
Nebi leaped just as something with wicked teeth and claws erupted from within the concealing darkness.
Whatever it was that burst from the cover of the commandant’s quarters was like nothing Irisi had ever seen before… And yet it was familiar in a strange way, something she’d only read about, something to haunt her nightmares.
Nebi met it, snarling and roaring.
More of the thing bounded out in the wake of the first.
They looked like hyenas but they weren’t, everything about them was slightly wrong, from their oversized teeth to the too long claws on their feet, yet the powerful bone-crushing jaws of the hyena they resembled were still very much a danger.
Irisi spun away from Khai, throwing her swords up to defend herself as one of the things launched itself at her.
“Call your people back, Khai,” Irisi cried. “Get them back.”
The thing twisted to evade the iron in the rough steel of her swords.
Khai shouted for his people as more of the things and new, different, ones erupted from the shadows where they’d been hiding.
Things that resembled smoke but weren’t flowed from the barracks around them in rolling billows. That smoke transformed into creatures that were shaped roughly like men. It was there that all resemblance ended.
Rough creatures, their skin was as black as charcoal and rimose, threaded with glints of red like the coals of a banked fire. Their eyes were narrow glowing slits, their noses and mouths a slash of embers. Others shifted shape and form, some appeared to be men who’d suffered a terrible battle – all bore fearsome wounds. Khai feared he knew who they were and from where they’d come… The fallen of the fort.
With a howl, a hyena thing leaped at Irisi. She spun away, her swords flashing. It screamed in frustrated fury as her blade cut it while another leaped at Khai himself.
Khai took the thing down with a two-handed swing of his own sword, sending it tumbling across the ground. It instantly rolled to its feet and raced toward them once again. A spear thrown by one of his men pierced it. It howled, rolling, scrabbling and biting at itself.
“Don’t let the shadows touch you,” Irisi cried out in warning, as she cut an ifrit in two.
If she was right… Fear shot through her.
Gesturing, she called up a burst of wind to drive back the shadows closest to them and their people.
“What are they?” Khai demanded, turning to put Irisi at his back as his people raced to join them, most of them ducking, dodging and fighting the creatures that seemed to burst through or ooze from nearly every orifice of the fort.
He saw the smoke that wasn’t smoke swirl around one of his men.
Screaming, the man’s eyes bulged as he fell, his clothing stained red even as he toppled.
Irisi threw herself against Khai as he instinctively responded, going to the aid of his man.
“No,” she cried, “you can’t save him.”
More of the things appeared.
Nebi leaped past them to take another, his massive jaws locking on the throat of one of the hyena things.
“Djinn,” she answered as she looked around in horror. “They’re Dark Djinn…”
They came from everywhere.
Ifrit in the shape of hyena, sila – fire demons – ghuls who would eat the dead or a man alive…and the marid, beautiful spirits who would steal a man’s soul.
In all her reading Irisi had never heard of such a thing. Djinn didn’t fight together. Djinn never fought together. They were solitary creatures. And yet here they were.
United like this…
They couldn’t fight so many, not with so small a force.
Dear Gods and Goddesses, help us, she thought.
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To Khai’s horror, his fallen man rose up to take sword against them.