If you haven’t already done so, now is the perfect time to pre-order your hardcover/paperback/eBook copy of my upcoming release, AUGUST’S EYES.
If you enjoy dark thrillers, true crime, or supernatural horror, you will love this one.
Pre-orders are important for writers and publishers…check it out:
“First-week sales numbers are based heavily on preorders. While you might preorder a May book in January, the actual sale doesn’t count until the day the book is released when, ostensibly, the book is set to ship.
That means, thanks to preorders, you have sold all of those books on the first day, which bumps up your rankings and bumps up your potential for a bestseller list that first week on sale.”
I hope you’ll consider adding a copy to your cart.
Stay safe, stay positive, and watch out for green vans!
Here’s the prologue:
Spears Corner never knew it had an uninvited guest in its midst that August afternoon. One that would make the skin crawl on every parent in town if they understood what kind of monster was roaming their streets. In a green Dodge van, it searched for the next boy to quench a thirst and an urge that never faded, never eased, never disappeared. The downtown area, a two-block stretch along Water Street, was full of adults and children alike enjoying a beautiful sunny day. Squeals of laughter bellowed from little ones chasing each other up the brick sidewalks. The group of teens standing in Nirvana and Liz Phair t-shirts on the corner flung curses at the monster as he passed by: “Look, its Chester the Molester and his fuck van!” “Fuck off, creep!” “Suck it, asshole!” The van rolled along. Just down the street, an old Credence Clearwater Revival song was being murdered by a howling kid with a beat-up acoustic guitar on the steps of the Spears Corner Public Library. This one caused the monster to brake. Salivating, its sweaty hands clenching the steering wheel, a desperate heartbeat throbbing in its neck, it always liked the loners. They made the best company.
Police sirens blared to life behind the van. Startled, the monster let off the brake and pulled ahead. The two police cruisers, their lights flashing, sped by.
The moment had passed. The van moved along, driving out of the crowded downtown area, and up the hill toward quieter parts of the town.
“Crap, Johnny,” the new kid, Ethan, said, “that was close.”
Johnny Colby was still shaking. He’d barely avoided getting run down by the asshole in the red Ford Escort. He hated riding bikes through the Shop n’ Save parking lot. He’d nearly been clipped a dozen times. Nobody seemed to watch where the hell they were going. This guy had come out of nowhere and actually made contact. Johnny had been quick enough to raise his foot up and had his sneaker on the guy’s hood before being bumped from his bike and landing hard on the blacktop.
“I just need a minute,” Johnny said.
The jerk in the car shouted, “Stay out of the Goddamn way” before hurrying off.
Ethan, a tall, scrawny kid, leaned his BMX against the bench and joined Johnny. “That cut looks pretty bad, man. You want to run in and see if they have some Band-Aids? I have a couple bucks left.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Johnny said. He pulled the red bandana off his head and wrapped it tightly around his bloodied knee. He felt fortunate to come away with this wound and the scrape on his shoulder, and not to have his skull cracked all over the pavement. “It’ll stop bleeding. Let’s just get the hell out of here.”
It wasn’t until a couple hours later, when they were up the hill near the Spears Corner Common, that Johnny noticed the ugly van he’d seen twice already parked up ahead. He’d also caught it cruising by the front of the sports card shop earlier, and before that while they were skipping rocks into Jefferson Stream near the trestles. He hadn’t liked the look of it or the way the vehicle seemed to have moved twice as slow as the rest of traffic. He’d grown up watching 20/20 with his mom every Friday night. The weekly program had filled him with its share of nightmares – everything from catching AIDS from a dirty needle used on him at the doctor’s like Ryan White, to being savagely attacked by an unleashed pit bull, or forced into a Satanic cult by older kids who listened to old bands like Slayer or that new group, Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids – but it also gave him a heightened sense of stranger danger, and this ugly van had his warning alarms going haywire.
“Let’s cross the road,” he said.
Ethan didn’t ask why, he just followed.
When they crossed again further up the street, Johnny looked back and saw the van was gone.
Bikes in the grass, armed with Pepsis they’d picked up from the 7-Eleven on the other side of the road, Johnny and Ethan sat in the gazebo at the heart of the Spears Corner Commons.
“You think I could spend the night at your place tonight?” Ethan said.
“Ah, I don’t know. I’d have to talk to my mom.” Johnny didn’t really know Ethan Ripley that well. The kid had just come to Spears Corner Junior High at the end of sixth grade a couple months ago. He liked the kid well enough, but enough to have to hang out with him all night? He wasn’t sure.
“That’s okay,” Ethan said, dropping his chin and staring at the plastic bottle cupped in his hands. “It’s just that my mom kind of sucks.”
“Yeah, they all do, sometimes,” Johnny said, unsure whether this kid was going to start crying or spill some sad, sappy story on him.
“She’s…I think she’s worse than most.”
Aw crap, Johnny thought. He’s gonna spill.
“My mom…she drinks a lot. Like, she’s drunk all the time, ya know?”
“Sorry, man,” Johnny said. He sipped from his soda, hoping his ‘sorry’ was enough.
“And my dad,” Ethan began. Tears leaked from both of his deep brown eyes. “He lives up near camp, and when I’m at his place, he hits me pretty good. Sometimes, I don’t know if I can take it anymore. If I should run away, ya know? Or just….”
Johnny had never seen a kid his own age fall apart before his eyes, except maybe in a movie. He was sure Ethan was about to come completely undone. That his skin was going to unzip and flood the gazebo with every bit of hurt and pain he had inside.
“Oh, shit, man,” Ethan said, standing up and wiping at his eyes. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I told you all that.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Johnny said. “Life sucks, sometimes, right?”
Ethan, red eyed, the front of his Counting Crows t-shirt wet from his tears, nodded and gave a weak, weepy laugh.
Johnny wanted to change the subject. He pointed to Ethan’s shirt. “You like them?”
“Counting Crows? Yeah, they’re my favorite band.” His gaze dipped, his hand nervously scratching at his neck. “I hope you don’t think that’s too lame.”
“They’re okay,” Johnny said. “’Mr.Jones,’ right?”
“Yeah, but the whole tape is really special. I mean, it is to me. It’s like every song on there speaks to me in some way. Have you ever had a tape like that?”
He thought about it. He really liked a lot of different bands and their albums. He couldn’t really pick just one. “I don’t know,” Johnny said. “Sure, like, Nevermind or Ten, maybe.”
“Yeah, those are really good ones,” Ethan said. After a few seconds of silence, he added, “I can make you a copy if you want to check it out.”
“Is that the name of the tape?” Johnny said, pointing to the words scrawled across Ethan’s shirt.
“Yeah, August and Everything After.”
“Cool,” Johnny said rising from the bench lining the inside of the gazebo. “Come on, you ever been out to the Pits?”
“What is it?”
Johnny led him down the steps to where their bikes lay. “It’s a bunch of huge sand piles the city uses for all sorts of stuff. Tons of people go out there with four-wheelers and dirt bikes or just to go shoot shit for like target practice.”
“Are we supposed to go there?” Ethan asked.
“I don’t know, really. My buddy Paul and his dad always go out there and ride. I’ve been with them a bunch of times and I’ve never seen any cops. Come on.”
By the time they reached the Pits off Brunswick Avenue, they’d both wished they’d brought some more soda.
“The sun sucks today,” Ethan said as they rode in through the open gate.
“There’s another store, New Mills Market, just down that way,” Johnny said. “Let’s get a few jumps in, and then we can use those last couple bucks of yours to get something.”
“Okay,” Ethan said. The kid was finally smiling.
Good, Johnny thought. He didn’t think he could stand another waterworks display from the guy.
“Wait,” Johnny said, looking at Ethan’s funny hand. “Are you going to be able to land okay, I mean, with your hand and everything?”
“Yeah, it’s not as useless as it looks,” Ethan said. He clutched his bike grip to prove it.
Johnny was curious as to what happened to his hand, but never felt right to ask. Ethan would tell him if he felt like it.
Johnny took the first two jumps off a smaller dirt pile before Ethan gave it a try. The kid made his first jump like a pro, getting some serious air and sticking the landing better than Johnny ever had.
“Wow,” Johnny said, cruising over next to him. “That was freaking awesome. You must have done this before.”
“I used to ride dirt bikes with my Uncle Pete before we moved.”
“Well, shit, man, you’re gonna have to show me how you do it.”
Ethan’s gaze drifted over Johnny’s shoulder. Johnny turned to see what he was looking at.
“What is it?” Johnny asked, and then he saw.
The green van. The same creepy Dodge junk box he’d seen earlier sat parked near one of the taller sand piles a little farther in the pits.
“Oh my God,” Ethan said. “Let’s go see if he’s all right.”
Johnny didn’t know what the kid was talking about until he noticed the man down on his hands and knees toward the back tire of the van.
His stranger danger alarms blared again.
But Ethan was pedaling toward the van in a hurry.
Johnny stepped on his pedal but couldn’t force himself to follow. His insides felt cold. Gooseflesh broke over his arms. They shouldn’t go near that man or his damn van.
He sat frozen as he watched Ethan dump his BMX to the dirt and walk over to the man on the ground. He appeared to be helping the man to his feet when the man snatched him by the hair and slammed Ethan’s head into the side of the van. The man clubbed Ethan until the boy collapsed to the ground.
That’s when the creep stood and pointed at Johnny.
Oh no, oh God, no.
Johnny wet his pants. The man grabbed Ethan up from the dirt, carried him behind the van, opened the back door and piled him inside. Slamming the doors shut, the stranger turned toward Johnny, who hadn’t been able to move. Johnny’s entire body trembled. He was crying as the man started for him.
The awful man had closed half the distance by the time Johnny finally busted loose from his paralysis and turned his bike around.
He couldn’t go for Brunswick Avenue. The man would go back to his van, catch him, and run him down. There was a path they used to use that went all the way to Talbot Hill, which would bring him over to Bruton Street. From there he could hurry down Church Street and over to the police station.
Johnny pedaled as fast as he could. It felt like the strange man was Carl Lewis, like he was going to break another Olympic record and run him down. Johnny was going to get stuffed in the back of that van.
As he left the sand and dirt behind, his bike tires eating up the grass of the path, he dared a quick glance over his shoulder.
The stranger was no longer behind him.
He didn’t look back again. He pedaled to Talbot Hill. When he got there, he saw his English teacher, Mr. Janz. He asked if he could use his phone, but Johnny never made it to the police. Instead, he called his mom to come pick him up.
He never told anyone what happened to Ethan Ripley. He was too afraid he would he get in trouble for not helping him. For not stopping that man.
After the police pulled Ethan’s body from Litchfield Pond, Johnny cried himself to sleep.
AUGUST’S EYES Copyright © 2021 by Glenn Rolfe
Flame Tree Press 2021 Distributed by Simon and Schuster
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
The characters and events in this book are fictitious.
Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
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