My Library


Just wanted to put all my novellas, with their links, into one post. I’ve gained a lot of new readers over the past few months, and I know how easy it is for older posts to get lost. You can click on each picture, and it will take you right to the Amazon page where it’s for sale. Thank you so much for your support. I would ask that if you read any of these books, please leave a review for me on Amazon. I greatly appreciate it. God bless.

Click to purchase

My latest book is entitled, I Was There. It’s a collection of ten Bible stories written from first person perspective. To date, this is my favorite one. I love writing fiction, but there’s no real hope that it can change someone’s life. With I Was There, I believe it has the potential to help people in all areas of life. I’m truly excited to see what God is going to do with it. I’ve already started on a second collection and have the rough drafts completed for three stories.

 

 

Other Side of Night CoverOther Side of Night actually ran for ten weeks in the Kingsport, TN newspaper and the West Australian. It was part of the Newspaper in Education department where they read the story to children in school and used it as a teaching tool. Pretty cool stuff.

 

 

 

The Stranger CoverThe Stranger has been my most popular book up to this point. I started it as a serial story on my blog a long time ago, then decided to turn it into a book.

 

 

 

 

Unknown CoverUnknown is the first in a trilogy that I hope to get back to one day.

 

 

 

I Was There is now available


I am very pleased to announce that my latest book, I Was There, is now available for sale on Amazon. This is a collection of ten Bible stories written in first person perspective.

Click on the thumbnail below to purchase.

CM_I_Was_There

This project started several months ago when I began thinking about someone looking on as Jesus was being beaten and eventually crucified. I received such an amazing response to the first story, that I felt led to write more. This is the first in what I hope to be several collections. I have already started on a second book, and I am very excited at the direction it’s taking already.

I am beyond honored to have had George Verwer write the foreword for this book. Click HERE for his website. When I was little, our family was involved in full-time mission work. We were a part of Operation Mobilization (OM). You can visit their site HERE George is an amazing individual who has had a huge impact on people in all corners of the globe. Today, OM reaches across the world through the ministry of their ship Logos Hope and over 6,100 people working in over 110 nations to make Christ known in the lives of all they meet. For many years George served as International Director of OM and helped raise up dedicated leadership to pursue this task across the world, freeing him to travel and speak, helping many find their role in extending the Kingdom of God.

I want to thank several people who took the time to read I Was There before it was published. They gave me great insights, suggestions, and reviews that have helped me throughout the entire process. Please take the time to visit their blogs and read through their posts. I guarantee you will find some amazing things.

 

“I Was There, by Chris Martin takes you up close and inside some of the famous characters in the Bible. The stories written from a first person narrative gives the reader a deeper sense of the human element and heart which God’s word is meant to reach. Chris’ writing will lift and bolster those who know Christ and plant a seed for those who don’t. Big thumbs up to my brother, Chris Martin!”  – Floyd Samons http://theregoi.com

“Chris Martin, however, has not settled for teaching us about the characters in the Bible we read. Instead, in I Was There, he has delved deep into the very being of several of the most beloved individuals in scripture. Rather than merely knowing about them and how they responded to Jesus’ impact on their lives, Martin introduces us to human beings much like ourselves, ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, and his words make it possible for us to experience their relationship with the Son of God in a way that touches our own hearts deeply.”Nanci Flynn http://nancihflynn.wordpress.com

“I have read the Bible, and thought I understood it. But reading Chris Martin’s work reveals a personal side to the Bible that I never thought possible. Literally placing you in the scene in an intense and vivid way, Martin has the ability to transport you to a time and place where genuinely amazing things happened. Genuinely terrifying things happened.  Genuinely holy things happened. Perhaps we know these stories too well. So well that we lose the intensity of what was happening. Martin brings that back in a powerful way and truly reveals the glory of God in doing so in a way I’ve never seen before. The concept of a first person account of a Biblical story is not entirely unique, but the way that Martin does it is truly revolutionary. To say that my faith was increased by this book would be an understatement. It was redefined and renewed.”James Voigt http://jamesdvoigt.wordpress.com/

“I loved the way it took a few moments with each chapter to wrap my mind around who was speaking. I found it to be exciting and it made me want to rush the words so I could figure out the mystery. I would have to slow myself down so that I could let the words flow over me smoothly. Smoothly–yes, that is a perfect word of sorts. Each chapter was a smooth progression of thoughts that packed huge punches at some point. I found healing, joy, pain, sorrow, victory, and forgiveness, all wrapped up within the pages.”Skye Alexander http://thesanctuaryofmyheart.com/

 

I also want to say a very special thank you to my Mom, Betty Jo Martin, for the amazing cover art and editing services she provided. You can check out her blog HERE.

 

The Stranger – Chapter Ten


The Stranger was the first novella I published on the Amazon Kindle store. It’s currently for sale at a whopping $.99. I’ve decided to post it here, on my blog, in it’s entirety, for free. I am passionate about writing posts that demonstrate the love and grace of Jesus and what He’s doing in my life, but I also love writing fiction.

Here’s the plan. For the next ten weeks, I will post a chapter each Friday. Let’s call it Fiction Friday. Feel free to hashtag the crap out of that. I hope you enjoy the story. If you like this one, I have a couple more on Amazon. You can find them here: Author Page

Chapter Ten

“Dillon, can you hear me?”

Unable to see anything but darkness, I slowly opened my eyes. The throbbing pain inside my head had vanished. I waited several seconds before trying to move. I decided to take things nice and easy. The room materialized into focus, and I looked upon a man sitting in a chair directly across from me.

“Dillon? I know you don’t like these sessions, but we need to talk.” He was dressed nicely in a suit, but no tie. His darkened hair contained streaks of gray, revealing a hint of his age. On the table between us, laid an opened spiral-bound notebook. He held a pen in his hand.

“Do I know you?”

He smiled, but for reasons unknown to me, it didn’t lower my anxiety level. “Of course you do, Dillon. We’ve been meeting together for a long time now. You took quite the fall today, so things might be a little…fuzzy for awhile.”

I blinked several times so my eyes could adjust to the dim lighting. The room was modest, just the table and two chairs. Cold, drab, cement walls surrounded us on all sides. It reminded me of an interrogation room I had seen in many movies. The feeling swirling through the air was somewhere between cozy and frightening.

I frowned. “Where exactly am I? Are you a doctor or something?”

“You could say that. What do you remember, Dillon?”

“What do you mean? Remember about what?”

He smiled again and a chill slithered down my spinal cord. I tried not to shiver.

“Let me put it this way, what is the last thing you remember?”

I started to answer the question but realized I didn’t remember anything except for waking up in that room. He noticed my hesitation and leaned forward. I struggled to make sense of the chaos inside my mind. Clouded bits of memories flashed briefly, but disappeared before they were discernible.

“I…I’m not really sure. I keep seeing these images in my head, like short bursts of pictures, but they don’t make any sense.”

“Can you describe what they look like?”

I shook my head. “They don’t last long enough for me to get any details.” I looked at the floor and then closed my eyes, concentrating. “I see some woods. It’s raining. There’s a cabin. I think someone is with me, but I can’t tell.”

“Good, go on.”

“It’s almost like I feel scared, like I’m in a very bad situation, but I can’t see anything else.” I opened my eyes and looked up. “I’m sorry. I know that’s not much detail.”

“You’re doing great, Dillon. We’re not in any hurry. We’ve made some significant progress, which I’ve put in my report.”

I glanced at the notebook which he had yet to pick up. All I could see were blank pages. “Is that what you’re writing your notes in?”

“Some. Not all though. This is merely to keep track of the session. I put everything into the computer once we’re done. I keep remarkably thorough records.”

I sat there wondering when the light bulb would come on and I would start remembering things. I had a feeling that the good doctor wasn’t telling me everything. It was as if he had placed a puzzle in front of me, but kept several key pieces tucked away inside his pocket. Not only that, he also hid the box so I couldn’t see what the picture should look like. “What’s your name?” I asked. “You know mine, I think it’s only fair I know yours.”

“Of course, Dillon. My name is Dr. Parker.”

I had expected to hear the sound of a large gong and an announcement that I had won the grand prize of getting my memory back. I was sorely disappointed. The name meant nothing to me. “Hmm, Dr. Parker…and we’ve been meeting like this a lot?”

He nodded. “We meet once a week, sometimes more if the situation calls for it. Like today, for example. Our normal session isn’t until next Thursday, but after the incident, they called me in right away.”

“Incident?” I asked. “What incident?”

Dr. Parker leaned back in his chair and folded one leg across the other. He studied me for a minute without saying a word. “You were involved in an altercation earlier this morning. You hit your head painfully hard on the concrete floor. I’m surprised you don’t have a headache.”

“I remember having one earlier, but I’m not sure when. I woke up in here and now it’s gone. What exactly happened?”

“That’s what I’m hoping you can tell me. Your mind has blocked it out for whatever reason, and we need to figure out how to extract the memories.”

Dr. Parker stood up and pulled a syringe from one pocket.

I shifted in my seat, beginning to feel terribly uncomfortable. “What is that for?”

He walked around the table and stood beside me. “This will help you remember. It’s designed to remove any mental blocks your subconscious has established as a defense mechanism.”

He removed the cap and flicked the needle a couple times. He applied a small amount of pressure to the plunger and a tiny stream of liquid squirted from the tip.

He reached down to roll up my sleeve, and I raised a hand to stop him. The clank of metal reached my ears and I realized my arm had not raised as I intended. I looked down to find I was handcuffed to the chair. “Wait. What’s going on?”

“This won’t hurt much.”

I felt a small prick in my upper arm, much like that of a bee sting. I grimaced, but the pain relented almost instantly. Dr. Parker returned to his seat after discarding the needle in a bin underneath the table. He stared at me with the same, disconcerting smile.

“What was that stuff?”

“You wouldn’t be able to pronounce the name of it, so I won’t bother telling you. You will start feeling relaxed which means it’s working. I’m hoping it will break down the mental blocks around your suppressed memories.”

I swallowed dryness and tried to clear my throat. My tongue felt thick. “Hoping?”

Dr. Parker nodded. “Yes, Dillon. Hoping. It’s experimental, and you just happen to be subject zero. We needed someone to test it on, and you fit the bill perfectly.”

“Am I supposed to be making sense of what’s going on? Because I’ve got to be honest, I’m so confused right now.” I looked at my hands again. “And why the nice, shiny bracelets? They’re kind of tight.”

“Protection.”

“From what?”

“Yourself.”

A ripple bent the room as the ceiling became the floor, turning upside down, hanging for a moment, and then righting itself. “Whoa. What was that?”

Dr. Parker smiled. “Don’t Take Life Seriously,” he said.

A sudden burst of fire shot through my head and I cried out. The searing pain was so intense I felt my eyeballs threatening to pop out of their sockets. I screamed again and tried to force my eyes shut. It was useless. I fought against the restraints, nearly snapping my arms while flailing about.

After what seemed like several hours, the pain suddenly stopped. I gasped for breath as tears streamed down my face. “What…what’s happening to me?”

“Suppressed memories can be activated by what we call triggers,” Dr. Parker explained. “That was obviously a huge one. Do you remember where you saw that phrase?”

“It was on something…a jacket, or…wait, it was on…” I remembered Jimmy walking through the door with a worried look on his face. “Jimmy had it on his shirt. He was wearing it the day…” I stopped talking and rolled my head back. I stared at the ceiling and tried to shake the confusion out of my head.

“Jimmy was your friend, right?”

I returned my focus to Dr. Parker. “Is my friend. Jimmy is my friend. He practically saved my life after, well, after she left me. He’s always been there for me. I don’t know how I would have made it without him.”

“What would you say if I told you that Jimmy’s gone and he’s never coming back?”

“I would say you’re out of your mind. He wouldn’t go anywhere without saying goodbye. He wouldn’t do that to me.”

“I’m sorry, Dillon. I wouldn’t lie to you. I told you from the beginning that I would never do that. Everything I’ve ever said to you has been the truth.”

“No, I don’t believe you. I don’t even know you. You won’t tell me where I am. You inject me with God knows what and then tell me that my best friend is gone. Bring in someone else I can talk to. I want to know what’s going on.”

Dr. Parker slowly shook his head as his expression saddened. “Dillon, I’m the only friend you have right now. Do you realize how serious this situation is? You’ve got to work with me, Son. I’m only trying to help you.”

I felt my face flush with heated anger. “Don’t you dare call me Son. Only one man has ever called me that, and it sure isn’t you.”

“You don’t get it, do you? You need to wake up and understand what is about to happen. If I don’t leave this room and convince them that you’re crazy, then you are a walking dead man. There’s nothing else I can do for you.”

I struggled to find the piece of the puzzle I had obviously missed.

Dr. Parker stood to his feet and leaned over, placing both hands on the table. “Do you remember Lance Puckett?”

My heart skipped a beat in recognition.

“Dena? Mel? Do any of those names ring a bell? How about the six girls you murdered and dumped into the lake on Halloween night? Do you remember them? I read your journal. You wrote down everything in such vivid detail. The problem with that is, you can’t plead insanity at trial with words from a notebook. We need to record video of a session which provides evidence of mental instability.”

I closed my eyes, hoping I would open them to discover I was living a horrifying nightmare.

“You need to tell me the same story you wrote down while behind bars all these years. This is your last chance, Dillon. Both of your appeals have been thrown out. It’s now or never.”

I opened my eyes and realized my wish had not come true. Dr. Parker stared at me with a determined look on his face. He picked the notebook up from the table and slid it over to me. I looked down at the pages. I recognized my own handwriting on the paper.

“I can prove you have multiple personality disorder. There’s no Jimmy, Lance, or Dena. You weren’t forced to some mysterious cabin in the woods where Lance and his father were killed.” Dr. Parker walked around the table to my side. He placed his finger in the middle of my forehead. “It’s all in there, Dillon. Those characters aren’t real. They are figments of your deranged imagination. All you have to do is tell me this story, the work of fiction you’ve written down, let me get it on tape, and you won’t have to face the electric chair.”

I remembered everything. The night I killed six high school girls, loaded them in the back of my pickup truck, and dumped their bodies. Every time I went to sleep, I could see the terror on their faces and hear the screams. I’m in no way proud of what I’ve done, but I will face the consequences of my actions.

Over the last five years of incarceration, writing had been the only thing to keep me busy. I’ve often wondered if putting the story on paper as being played out by several people would bring me some form of closure. In the end, I alone was responsible for the horrible events that shocked a nation.

I looked into the pleading eyes of Dr. Parker and shook my head. “No.”

He left, and two guards walked in. They hauled me from the interrogation room and returned me to the six by nine box that served as my home. I sat down on the cot and closed my eyes.

Thunder rolled across the darkened sky as I stood over the still body of Dena. Her eyes remained open in terror. “I’ve released your soul since you couldn’t do it yourself. It’s over.” I dropped the gun and returned to the Ford Taurus. I climbed inside and closed the door behind me. Steady rain beat against the roof, but it calmed me like nothing else could.

I glanced into the review mirror.

The stranger looked back.

 

Chris Martin

The Stranger – Chapter Nine


The Stranger was the first novella I published on the Amazon Kindle store. It’s currently for sale at a whopping $.99. I’ve decided to post it here, on my blog, in it’s entirety, for free. I am passionate about writing posts that demonstrate the love and grace of Jesus and what He’s doing in my life, but I also love writing fiction.

Here’s the plan. For the next ten weeks, I will post a chapter each Friday. Let’s call it Fiction Friday. Feel free to hashtag the crap out of that. I hope you enjoy the story. If you like this one, I have a couple more on Amazon. You can find them here: Author Page

Chapter Nine

As we neared Seal Bay, the rain returned, pounding the windshield with watery fists. The wipers moved back and forth, valiantly struggling to keep up. Since the call, neither of us had spoken. Jimmy was still in a trance looking out the window, and I concentrated on the road while trying to understand the conversation with Dena.

I never realized she had such a hard time after their father abandoned them. As a little girl, she must have gone through Hell taking on all the blame. It pained me to think of the hurt and guilt she had carried around for so long, and none of us knew it. I hung out with Jimmy nearly every day and never saw the signs.

We arrived in town, and I drove straight to the Sheriff’s office. I parked out front and looked at Jimmy. “Hey, Dena said something to me on the phone that was odd. I was hoping you might know what she’s talking about.”

Without turning away from the water-streaked window, he replied. “What did she say?”

“Something about one more thing to do and then it’s finished. The last thing she said before hanging up was ‘I have to release the souls of the ones who can’t do it themselves’. That mean anything to you?”

At first I didn’t think he heard my question. I waited for several uncomfortable seconds before speaking again. “Jimmy?”

“I don’t know. She’s been reading a lot of books about death and the afterlife lately. Maybe it’s something she picked up from one of those. She’s been acting pretty weird recently, so nothing would surprise me anymore.”

“Has she talked with you about the material she’s reading?”

“Not really. She’s mentioned bits and pieces, but not a lot. We don’t talk as much as we used to. It’s funny how life gets so busy that we don’t spend quality time with the ones we love. How does that happen?”

I rested my head back against the seat. The throbbing in my jaw had quieted to a dull ache, but my head still pounded with a steady beat. “It’s as you said. Life gets too busy and we take things for granted. We start to lose focus on what’s important. Stuff like family and friends. Time slips away without us even knowing it.”

“What’s going to happen now, Dillon?”

“What do you mean?”

“To me. To Dena. Where do we go from here?”

“I don’t know. I wish I had a better answer for you, but I don’t. I want to say everything will work out just fine, but I would be lying if I did. I have no idea what’s going to happen.  I think a lot will depend on whether or not Dena comes forward and tells the police what truly happened that night.”

“She’s scared. She’s lived with this for the last eight years and it’s been tearing her apart. She didn’t know if Eugene would attack her again or leave her alone for good. When Lance came back, she relived that fear again.”

“I know she’s scared, but somehow she has to find the courage to speak up. First, I need to find her and figure out what that one thing is she has left to do. You don’t have any idea where she might have gone?”

Jimmy looked over at me with red eyes and a saddened expression. “She’s probably going to try and hurt herself again. She feels responsible for the deaths of those girls because she did nothing to try and stop Eugene Puckett. She’s carried that guilt for a long time. Maybe that’s what she meant by releasing their souls.”

A sudden thought struck me. “I think I might know where she is. Look, you stay here and wait for Mark. Answer whatever questions he has left for you and tell him I’ll be back in a little while.”

Jimmy shook his head. “No. She’s my sister. We go together.”

I knew he wouldn’t be able to search for Dena. Once I found her, his presence would only add more pressure to the volatile situation. “You can’t, man. I’ve got to do this. You need to be here when Mark gets back. If she sees us both, it will only make things worse. I’ll find her and bring her back. I promise.”

The clouded, distant gaze in his eyes briefly cleared, and for the first time since arriving at the cabin, he looked at me. “Don’t let anything happen to her, Dillon. She’s all I have left. You bring her back, okay?”

I nodded. “You have my word.”

Jimmy stepped out of the Taurus and hurried into Sheriff’s office. I shifted the car into drive and pulled away. Five miles outside of town sat Garden Baptist Church. It had been a gorgeous structure until a fire nearly burnt it to the ground. Arson was suspected, but never confirmed. What remained of the building became a frequent hangout for mischievous teens and an occasional stray raccoon.

Many different phrases and unpleasant words had been spray painted on what inside walls were left standing. With no electricity, a makeshift fire pit had been constructed in the center. It had been abandoned for as long as I could remember. No one seemed too interested in restoring it, and from what I heard, no one would buy it because of the surrounding properties steep price tag.

All six victims from that fateful Halloween night were laid to rest out back in the cemetery. It was the first and hopefully last mass burial I would attend. Mothers and fathers wept as their children were lowered one by one into the depths of an eternal grave.

It was the only place I could think of where Dena might have gone. It made sense. She considered herself responsible for their deaths, and it would be poetic justice to take her own life standing on the very ground under which they were buried.

I parked the Taurus on the side of the road about a hundred yards short of the church entrance and turned off the engine. I decided to walk the rest of the way. If my suspicions were correct and Dena was indeed there, I didn’t want to alert her of my presence. I left the car and hurried to the back of the building where I could approach without being seen.

I slipped inside the gate and quietly crept toward the area of the cemetery where the girls were buried. The rain had eased off quite a bit, but still fell hard enough to mask the sounds of my arrival. I spotted Dena standing near the six graves. She faced the headstones with her head bowed.

When I was twenty feet away, she either heard something or sensed the presence of another person walking among the dead. She turned around, and her face twisted into surprise. “Dillon? What are you doing here?”

“Looking for you.”

“How did you know I would be here?”

“It took some thought, but I finally figured out what you were talking about.”

She looked past me as if expecting someone else. “Where’s Jimmy? Did he come with you?”

I shook my head. “He’s at the Sheriff’s office. I didn’t think it was a good idea for him to come along. What are you doing?”

Dena dropped her gaze to the ground. “It’s my fault, Dillon. All of it. I should have done something to stop Eugene. He was an animal, capable of doing the worst things imaginable, and I did nothing.”

“There was nothing you could do,” I said. “It’s not your fault he was an evil man. There are some people in this world that are destined to do certain things, good and bad. It’s not our place to get in the way of fate.”

“Fate? What are you talking about?”

“Why did you come out here today, Dena? What did you mean about releasing their souls? Jimmy said you’ve been reading books about death and the afterlife. Is that why you’re here? Because of something you read in a book?”

“I came out here because this is where I belong. Why should I live when they didn’t get the chance to? Their blood is on my hands. I don’t deserve another day on this earth.”

I took two steps closer. I blinked the rain out of my eyes and reached out a hand. “Their blood isn’t on your hands, Dena. The man responsible is dead. He can’t hurt anyone ever again. He can’t hurt you again. Just come back with me and you can tell Sam the whole story and get some closure.”

Dena stepped back shaking her head. “No. I don’t want to tell Sam anything. This is something I have to do. I don’t want closure, Dillon. I want to do what I should have done a long time ago. I’ve chained their souls to this realm with my actions. I need to release them.”

“Jimmy’s waiting for you. He wanted me to bring you back. He loves you, Dena. We all do. You don’t have to face this on your own anymore. Let us help. Let me help. I’m sorry I didn’t see what was going on until now. It’s not too late. You still have a chance to make this right.”

“No.” Tears streamed from her eyes. “No, you can’t help me. No one can. It’s over. It was too late the moment I watched them all die. I can’t go back now.” She reached down and picked up a knife laying on the ground.

“Dena, wait. Don’t do this.”

A flash of lighting illuminated the sky followed immediately by a clap of thunder that shook the ground. Dena hadn’t raised the knife yet. I could see uncertainty glinting inside her eyes. As much as she talked about being responsible for the death of those six girls, there was still a part of her that wanted to live.

When someone reaches what they think is the end of the road and there are no more options, death appears to be the only way out. When hope is lost, and there is no one to count on, desperation, and a feeling of abandonment, can cloud their judgment.

“Will you do something for me?” Dena asked. “Will you tell Jimmy that I love him, and I am so sorry? Tell him that I just couldn’t stand the thought of keeping this secret any longer. I think he will understand.”

I remained silent looking at the knife in her hand. It was time.

“Dillon? Do you hear me? Will you tell him? I just need you to-”

Before she could say another word, I pulled out the 9MM I had hidden behind my back and shot her twice in the chest.

 

Chris Martin

The Stranger – Chapter Eight


The Stranger was the first novella I published on the Amazon Kindle store. It’s currently for sale at a whopping $.99. I’ve decided to post it here, on my blog, in it’s entirety, for free. I am passionate about writing posts that demonstrate the love and grace of Jesus and what He’s doing in my life, but I also love writing fiction.

Here’s the plan. For the next ten weeks, I will post a chapter each Friday. Let’s call it Fiction Friday. Feel free to hashtag the crap out of that. I hope you enjoy the story. If you like this one, I have a couple more on Amazon. You can find them here: Author Page

Chapter Eight

As if joined with Lance in his passing to the afterlife, the moisture laden clouds moved on as sunlight overtook the sky. The remaining drops of rain shimmered like diamonds as they dripped from tree branches. I sat alone on the front porch of the cabin, still in shock over the morning’s events.

For reasons still unknown to me, Jimmy had also shot and killed Eugene Puckett. I watched him give his statement to one of Sam’s deputies. I wasn’t close enough to hear, but the officer nodded and wrote everything down. Since the arrival of the ambulance and the coroner, Jimmy had not said one word to me.

At first, I attributed that to his state of shock after killing Lance, but since he walked back and shot Mr. Puckett, I knew something else was decidedly wrong.

Watching the police as they worked the scene brought back unwanted, and intensely haunting, memories of the night I killed my step dad. I would never forget the way the gun recoiled when I pulled the trigger. I had never fired a weapon before and it nearly leaped from my hand. I could still feel the rain on my face and the smell of burning paper in my nostrils.

Not a day has gone by where I haven’t seen the look of fury, shock, and eventually pain on the man’s face as he fell to the damp earth. I still found myself waking up in the middle of the night calling out my mom’s name. Several weeks after the court appearances, she dropped me off at a friend’s house and drove away.

In the twenty-two years that followed, I saw my mother only once. I received a call that her health had declined so I flew back East where I was told she had relocated. She passed away before my arrival. I had written a list of questions I wanted answers to. I placed it inside the coffin and allowed it to be buried along with the body. I had no reason to search for answers after that.

“Dillon?”

I looked up to see Jimmy staring at me. “Hey, you okay?”

He nodded. “I was going to ask you the same thing. Who were you talking to?”

I frowned. “What? I wasn’t talking to anyone. I was just wondering if you were going to be alright. This was a lot to take in.”

Jimmy glanced back at the officer who had questioned him and then sat down beside me. “I know you probably have some questions for me. I don’t know what happened earlier. I’ve never felt so angry and scared all at the same time. It was as if I was suspended above my body watching him, well me, do those things. I don’t know how to explain it.”

I rubbed my jaw that continued to throb after getting punched by Lance. “You don’t have to explain anything to me, man. Of all people, I understand what you’re talking about.”

Jimmy opened mouth to speak, stopped, and then tried to start again. “How…what did you feel after you shot him?”

“I don’t think I had any feeling. At first, it was more shock than anything else. I just remember standing there in the rain looking at his dead body. I was numb. I remember being wet, and I remember the smell of burning paper.”

“I can’t feel anything,” Jimmy whispered. “I know I should be either in shock, or at least feel some guilt, but I don’t. I feel distant, like it didn’t actually happen.”

I looked at my friend and slowly nodded. He looked about ready to cry. “I know what you mean, Jimmy. That’s only natural. You’re still in shock over what happened.” I gestured to the officers and EMT’s cleaning up the scene. “Once this is all over, when they’re gone, that’s when it will sink in. That’s when you will need someone to talk to. You won’t be expecting it to hit you hard, but it will.”

“What if I don’t want to feel anything?”

“What do you mean?”

He swallowed emotion that brimmed just below the surface. “It felt right when I pulled that trigger. That’s what I want to remember. Does that make me a bad person?”

I wasn’t sure exactly where the conversation was going, but I began to feel uneasy. The Jimmy that I had known for so long and had become best friends with would never have talked like that. He was fun, adventurous but safe, and had always been there for me. “Well, after all Lance did this morning, it’s only natural to feel angry and want some sort of revenge. I mean-”

Jimmy cut me off. “That’s not what I mean, Dillon. I wasn’t angry at him at all.”

“Then what are we talking about here?”

“I’ve never shot anyone before, but when I killed Lance, there was a familiarity about that I can’t explain. It was as if I had already done that. I made sure he was dead, and I knew there was only one more thing to do. Finish off his father.”

“It’s called deja vu. We all experience that. I have to say I’m a little surprised by what you’re saying. This doesn’t sound like the Jimmy I know.” I smiled to soften my words, but I knew he could see right through it.

He turned to me with the same look I remembered seeing from Lance when we were in the car. Eyes with such vast emptiness staring out, but not truly seeing anything. “Something’s changed, Dillon. I don’t know what happened up here, but I feel different.”

Before I could reply, Deputy Mark Lowell walked up. He nodded and excused himself for interrupting. “Hey, guys. Are you both alright? Dillon, do you need to get looked at?”

I shook my head. “I’m good, Mark. A little sore, but that’s about it. What happens now?”

“Well, I need you both to come back to the station for some questions. It’s just a formality, nothing more. I want to make sure we get a full report. I wish we could wait, but things like this are better done as soon as possible, while everything is still fresh.”

“I understand,” I said. “It’s no problem. Are we riding with you or what?”

Mark looked around and spotted the Taurus sitting at the end of the driveway. He pointed. “How about if you guys follow me back in that. We need to get it back to town anyway. We’re still trying to find out who it belongs to. I initiated a nationwide search. No telling where he picked it up from.”

“Okay, that’s fine with me. Jimmy?”

My friend nodded, but remained silent.

“Jimmy, you okay? Mark asked. “A lot happened up here today. I know it can be overwhelming and pretty traumatic.”

“I’m fine,” Jimmy replied. “I’m just worried that I might get in trouble for what I did.”

Mark shifted the hat on his head. “Lance was a maniac who needed to be stopped. You got here in time to help Dillon and took care of business. It will be ruled self-defense. Trust me, you don’t have anything to worry about.”

For a minute, I was afraid Jimmy would start repeating what he told me before Mark walked up. “I think he’s still in shock. I’ll drive us back and let him rest.”

Mark nodded. “Sounds good. If you want, you can head on back to town. I need to finish up a couple things here, and then I’ll meet you at the station.”

“Sounds like a plan.” I stood up and walked down the steps. “Hey, have you heard anything about Sam? Is he okay?”

“Oh yeah, he’s going to be fine. The bullet went right through his shoulder and didn’t hit anything vital. He’s at the hospital getting fixed up and should be home by the time we’re done with our debrief. You can go see him then.”

We said goodbye to Mark and walked back across the clearing to the Taurus. We got in and started back down the mountain. I hoped the car would survive the return trip. The rain had washed out more of what little road we had in the first place.

I reached underneath the driver’s seat and pulled out my cell phone.

“That was a brilliant idea, by the way. I’m not sure we would have ever found you otherwise.”

Earlier, when Lance forced me into the car, I had just enough time to dial Jimmy on my phone and slip it under the seat with my foot. I tried to be as descriptive as I could while talking so they would know where to look for me. I’m surprised I didn’t irritate Lance to the point of shooting me and taking over the wheel.

“I wasn’t sure if it would work or not, but I had to take the chance. No one would have ever known where I was.”

“What was his plan, do you know?”

“I don’t know, man. All he said was he wanted someone to hear the truth and that was the only way. He kept repeating that he didn’t kill anyone and once we got to the cabin, he accused Eugene of doing it.”

“Do you believe him?” Jimmy asked.

“Well, at first I didn’t, especially when he was about to shoot me, but the more he talked, the more nervous his father became. I guess we’ll never know.”

I steered around several holes as we drove down to the main highway. We reached the road in one piece, and I turned back toward Seal Bay. After several miles of complete silence, I started feeling uncomfortable. There had never been a communication problem between the two of us. I had to agree with what he said while sitting on the porch. Something had changed, and I didn’t like it.

“Jimmy, we’ve been friends for a long time now, pretty much brothers. I don’t like feeling this tension. You’ve got to talk to me, dude. Tell me what’s going on inside that head of yours.”

As Jimmy stared out the window, tears started to trickle from his eyes. When he spoke, his voice cracked with emotion. “Dillon, I found out something after you left, something about that night.”

I frowned. “What are you talking about?”

“Dena has never been extremely popular, you know that. When Dad left us, she took it pretty hard. I never told you this, but she tried to commit suicide several times. For some reason, she felt responsible when he left, even though she was still young. We took her to a shrink for help, but that made things worse. She started hanging out with the wrong people at school and stopped doing her home work. It was not good.”

“Oh, man, I didn’t know any of that. I’m so sorry.”

He continued. “She dated Lance for a while, but broke it off after his father started showing up where she worked after hours. One night, he even tried to rape her, but she managed to fight him off.”

I was almost afraid to say anything. Jimmy was dropping one bombshell after another on me. “Why are you telling me all of this?”

“After Lance took you from Mel’s, Dena told me that she was there that night. Lance’s dad wanted to show her what would happen if she ever told anyone what he did to her. Dillon, Eugene Puckett murdered those girls and forced my baby sister to watch. That’s why I wanted to kill them both.”

I opened my mouth to reply, but couldn’t speak. I couldn’t believe Dena had kept that secret buried for eight years. I jumped when my cell phone rang. Called ID showed Dena. “Hello? Dena?”

“Is Jimmy okay? Did he get hurt?”

“He’s fine. Where are you?”

“Did he do it? Did he kill them?”

“They’re dead, yes. Dena, why didn’t you say anything before? We could have helped you.”

“None of that matters now, Dillon. We can’t go back and change what happened. I have one more thing to do, then it’s finished.”

I looked at Jimmy, but he showed no interest in the conversation. “What does that mean? Dena? Where are you? What are doing?”

“Goodbye, Dillon. I have to release the souls of the ones who can’t do it themselves.”

With those cryptic words, Dena ended the call. I pressed down on the accelerator, hoping we could return to Seal Bay in time to stop her from whatever she was about to do.

 

Chris Martin

The Stranger – Chapter Seven


The Stranger was the first novella I published on the Amazon Kindle store. It’s currently for sale at a whopping $.99. I’ve decided to post it here, on my blog, in it’s entirety, for free. I am passionate about writing posts that demonstrate the love and grace of Jesus and what He’s doing in my life, but I also love writing fiction.

Here’s the plan. For the next ten weeks, I will post a chapter each Friday. Let’s call it Fiction Friday. Feel free to hashtag the crap out of that. I hope you enjoy the story. If you like this one, I have a couple more on Amazon. You can find them here: Author Page

Chapter Seven

Having guns pointed in my general direction was beginning to get mighty tiresome. The day had not turned out at all as I expected when I crawled from underneath my warm blankets and drove into work. With a darkened sky looming above, it felt like evening although both hands on my watch pointed straight to twelve.

For some reason, I found it odd the man holding the shotgun would give us twenty seconds to leave. Not ten, or even thirty which was the most common, but twenty. Each second seemed to pass with the length of an hour. I didn’t want to find out what would happen if we reached the deadline.

“We just want to talk,” I said as I raised my hands further to the sky. “Look, I don’t even have a gun or anything.”

Standing at the top of the steps, the man strained to see me. “Who’s your friend? Behind you? He needs to step out where I can see him. Nice and slow.”

“I brought him here to learn the truth.” Lance spoke next to my ear, and my heart almost stopped. He stepped out from behind me and pointed the gun straight ahead. “I’m tired of being blamed for what you did.”

“Lance?” As he raised the weapon higher, the man took one step away. “Is that really you?”

“Yeah, Dad, it’s me. Don’t act so surprised. You had to know I would come back one day. Eight years are a long time. Aren’t you going to give me a hug?”

Apparently Eugene Puckett had not been killed in a car accident. I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact that Lance might not be the killer we all thought he was. Now, his father was back from the dead. Somewhere in a deep, dark corner of my brain, I started wishing for the dream to end and I would wake up at home, in bed.

“When did you get out?”

Eugene’s voice trembled. After a long period of time, I figured he had doubts about what his son was capable of. Allowing an innocent person to take the fall for one’s actions is reprehensible. Doing it to family, well, there isn’t even a word for that kind of injustice.

“A few days ago. I didn’t think I would ever make it. Fortunately, there are still some decent people left in this world, and I was able to hitch some rides. I thought about calling you for some bus money, but I wanted this to be a surprise.”

“Well, I am most certainly surprised.” He gestured towards me. “What does all of this have to do with Dillon?”

Lance shrugged. “Nothing really. I needed a witness to verify that I didn’t do what they say I did. He needs to know the truth about what happened that night. We’re going to set the record straight.”

I wasn’t sure why Lance didn’t tell me everything at Mel’s. Telling Sam the complete story and allowing him take some men to check the cabin and confirm the details would have made more sense. Instead, I had to stand outside in the pouring rain, between father and son who stood on the brink of shooting each other, and hope the expiration date on my life had not already passed.

“Lance, we all know what happened. There isn’t anything to straighten out. You killed those girls and dumped their bodies. Seems pretty open and shut to me. The jury decided it was too.”

Lance took two steps forward putting him directly beside me. I still had my hands raised, unsure of what would happen if I lowered them. It was only a matter of time before the pain would be too much, and they would drop whether I wanted them to or not.

“You won’t get away with this anymore,” he said. “I rotted in prison for eight years while you went about your life without a care in the world. Faking your own death has its advantages I guess.”

Even with limited visibility, I could see Eugene Puckett bristle in anger at his son’s words. “Without a care in the world? Are you seriously talking to me like that? Son, I buried your mother. Don’t think you-”

“Shut up! Don’t say another word!” Lance screamed, and I waited for one of the men to fire their gun. “I hate you. You were never there when I needed someone. You let me take the blame for something you did. YOU killed those girls! YOU dumped their bodies! YOU framed me for it! I want you to admit it right here, right now!”

Movement inside the cabin caught my eye, but I managed to stifle my reaction. In the gloom and distortion of pouring rain, I could have been mistaken. There was a slim chance someone had come to my rescue. It was a brazen plan, one that I thought up in a moment of desperation. I needed to create a diversion.

“Both of you need to calm down.” I slowly lowered my hands. “No one needs to get hurt. We’ve got to talk things out.”

Lance looked at me and opened his mouth to speak. Jimmy Burns made his move at that precise moment. He burst through the front door behind Eugene Puckett and tackled him around the waist, knocking him off the porch.

At the same moment, I lunged at Lance, grabbing the gun as he fired off a round. I knocked him to the ground hoping the wild shot had missed its mark.

Lance rolled onto his side, flipping me over and I landed hard on my back. Water splashed all around me as I hit, knocking the wind out of my lungs and nearly snapping my spine. Through eyes blurred with pain and the falling storm, I watched as he stood and walked toward me.

I knew with one swift kick to the face, he would render me unconscious, and the fight would be over. I rolled away and onto one knee. I looked, but didn’t see his gun lying anywhere on the ground. He didn’t have it in his hand anymore either, which gave me hope. Even in the darkened gloom that engulfed us, I could see his expression as clear as any beacon flashing from a lighthouse.

He intended to kill me.

“Lance, let’s end this now. I believe you. I don’t think you killed anyone. Hurting me will only make the situation worse. Let’s call the cops and tell them what happened.”

“I can’t go back, Dillon. I can’t. It’s too late. There’s nothing you can do now.”

I looked toward the cabin but couldn’t see Jimmy or Eugene. After Lance’s gun went off, I couldn’t hear much of anything either. I had no idea where the bullet had landed. No help from Jimmy meant one of two things. He was still trying to subdue Eugene Puckett, or he had been hit. I hoped he was still alive.

I didn’t need the guilt of my friend’s death haunting me for the duration of my life. I had enough on my plate to last several lifetimes.

Lance rushed forward and delivered a vicious kick toward my head. I raised both hands to deflect, but the force still shattered my balance and knocked me off my feet. Ignoring the stabbing pain in my lower back, I jumped up and charged, hitting Lance in the stomach with my shoulder and driving him to the ground.

Two quick punches to his face and I thought the fight was over. Lance obviously had other ideas. From out of nowhere he landed a right hay-maker to my temple causing a cluster of stars to explode like a 4th of July celebration. I clutched my head in a swarm of dizziness and slumped to the ground.

Somehow through sheets of rain and a throbbing drum parade pounding in my skull, I spotted Lance’s gun lying in the puddle-filled grass. Fighting an overwhelming urge to vomit, I started crawling toward the weapon. I needed to get control of the situation, and that would be the one thing that could turn the tables in my favor.

“Give it up, Dillon.” Lance rushed past me and snatched up the gun right as I reached for it. “This just isn’t your day. You should stick with building computers or whatever it is you do.”

On all fours, I fought to control my breathing and block out the pain. I learned several tricks in the military to accomplish both tasks, but they had abandoned me. “You don’t need to do this. It’s not too late, Lance. You haven’t broken anything that can’t be fixed. Just give me a chance to help you.”

“You don’t want to help me, Dillon. You never did. All I wanted was for you to believe me. I figured with someone from Seal Bay who was known to be honest and respected as you are, I might have a chance.”

Pain flared in my lower back, and I winced. “You still have a chance. Put the gun down before you do something stupid. You’re not a killer. I can see it in your eyes.” I surprised myself with those words. I had no idea if Lance was a killer or not, and I most certainly couldn’t tell anything by looking into the dark orbs on his face.

Lance cocked the hammer back and took several steps toward me. I rose to my knees and rested before trying to stand. Spasms in my back continued, shooting down my leg. I couldn’t think straight. All I could focus on was not letting Lance kill me. I could probably bet on the gun working and not clicking on an empty chamber as it had in the cafe. “Lance, wait. There’s something you don’t know. Information you don’t have. You’ve got to hear me out.”

Blood tinted water streamed down his face as he opened his mouth to laugh. To be honest, I would have laughed at myself as well for such a weak effort to stall for time. “Are you serious? You can’t possibly think-”

A deafening boom obliterated the steady hum of rain, and I watched as Lance was knocked from his feet and tossed to the drowning earth like a rag doll. Jimmy walked over through a small patch of fog, smoke trailing from the barrel of Eugene’s shotgun. He stood over the fallen body and raised the weapon.

“Jimmy! He’s dead. No one could have survived that shot.” I crawled to my feet and stumbled to his side.

“I need to make sure he’s gone. Forever.”

One look at Lance and I knew he was dead. The buckshot had not been kind to his chest. I swallowed the bile in my throat and put a hand on Jimmy’s shoulder. “He’s gone, man. He can’t do anything to us anymore.”

Jimmy lowered the gun, but continued to stare at the corpse. His features hardened like I had never seen. Having shot and killed someone myself, I knew what he was going through. It would haunt him the rest of his life.

The pain and guilt would wake him at night. He would replay the scene over and over inside his mind until nearly reaching the point of insanity. The mental scar would linger until the end of time, a reminder that would invade his dreams and rob him of closure.

“Jimmy? You okay?”

My friend nodded but remained silent. He turned around and walked back toward the cabin, still holding the shotgun. I took one last look at Lance and shook my head. There were only two men who knew the true story about that Halloween Night. One of them was now dead.

I turned to follow Jimmy but stopped when I heard the shot. Another shot followed, cutting off Eugene Puckett’s scream.

 

Chris Martin

The Stranger – Chapter Six


The Stranger was the first novella I published on the Amazon Kindle store. It’s currently for sale at a whopping $.99. I’ve decided to post it here, on my blog, in it’s entirety, for free. I am passionate about writing posts that demonstrate the love and grace of Jesus and what He’s doing in my life, but I also love writing fiction.

Here’s the plan. For the next ten weeks, I will post a chapter each Friday. Let’s call it Fiction Friday. Feel free to hashtag the crap out of that. I hope you enjoy the story. If you like this one, I have a couple more on Amazon. You can find them here: Author Page

Chapter Six

The cold tears of saddened angels fell from the blackened sky as a slow drizzle of rain enveloped the car. We had driven twenty miles, most of them in silence after Lance’s declaration of his innocence. His actions had not convinced me that he was indeed faultless of the crimes for which he had been accused.

Lingering thoughts of doubt concerning his sanity lurked in the back corner of my mind. I wanted to ask point blank if he was crazy, but the situation remained too delicate. The business end of his gun continued to stare directly into my abdomen. As if it hadn’t already spat out its vile poison earlier, the .357 appeared hungry for more.

“So, after eight years, you figured out that someone framed you?” I asked. “How did you do that? Did you have help from someone on the outside?”

“That’s not important.”

“Man, you’ve got to give me something if you want my help. You’re keeping me in the dark. You haven’t given me any reason to believe your story.”

I glanced over at the passenger seat to find Lance staring at me. His eyes were deep, dark, endless pools, void of any emotion. If he wasn’t guilty of killing those girls, eight years of prison would have seemed like a lifetime in Hell.

I looked back at the road, uncomfortable. “I still want to know how you escaped. Are you at least going to tell me that much? Did you pay off some guards? Maybe you’ve got something on the warden that you’re using for blackmail.”

He shook his head. “I know you don’t believe me, but you will. I’ll prove to you that I’m not crazy, which I know is what you’re thinking. More driving and less talking would be nice.”

“Lance, there’s nothing out here. This is the way I used to go when I was taking computer classes in Harrington. It’s just a fifty mile stretch of nothing but road and woods.”

“Just drive.”

“How much further is it? We’ve already gone about twenty miles. No one would ever find this place.”

“Another mile or two. No one being able to find it is the whole point. If a person wanted to hide from the police and everyone else, you think they would have a neon sign pointing to their hideout?”

“So, you’re telling me the real killer has been living just thirty or forty minutes North of Seal Bay for the last eight years? And none of us had a clue?”

Lance didn’t answer. I wondered if I had pressed the issue too much and overstepped my boundaries. Somehow, I had to make him understand that feeding me the information I desired would only build a bond of trust between the two of us.

“Who is it?” I asked.

“Who is what?”

“Who are you taking me to see? You said it was the man responsible for the murders. Who is it?”

Lance looked at me and smirked. “You seriously can’t shut up, can you? I told you to be quiet and drive. Why is that so hard?”

“Fine. I’m just trying to figure you out, man. If the story you’re telling is true, you need people in your corner. You don’t gain a person’s trust by trying to kill them, and when that doesn’t work, kidnap them and drive off into the woods. It just doesn’t work that way.”

“We’re getting close to the turn. Just keep driving and I’ll explain everything when we get there.”

“So, there really isn’t a neon sign or anything to let us know?”

Knowing I wouldn’t get a reply, I allowed my thoughts to drift back to events that only appeared in the darkness of my dreams. If you dug deep enough into the fiber of our community, you would find that no one had truly healed from the horror of that night.

It was impossible to accept the fact that something so atrocious could happen in our little town. Even more so was the fact it was one of our own who allegedly committed the crime. The world around Seal Bay was going to Hell in a hand basket, but we still believed in our version of Utopia. Well, we did until that night.

Everything changed. Lives were devastated. Eight years had softened the hurt somewhat, but it lingered still.

The shocking return of Lance Puckett had reopened old wounds, but if we had accused the wrong person all those years, then setting the record straight might be a good thing. On the flip side of that coin, if the jury had indeed sentenced the correct offender to death row, his appearance would do nothing but destroy what little peace we had managed to find.

“Around this curve on the right, there’s a dirt road that heads into the woods. You have to look closely, or you’ll miss it.”

I slowed the vehicle as we rounded the curve. About twenty yards off the main road I saw the entrance. Brush and trees had almost overtaken it, but there was clearly a path of some kind. Calling it a dirt road seemed too generous.

“Wow, I’ve clearly never noticed this before. That curve kind of sneaks up on you, doesn’t it? I don’t see any tire tracks, which tells me no one’s gone this direction in a very long time. How do you know he’s up there?”

“He’s there.”

“You’ve been gone eight years. What if-”

“He’s there.”

I swallowed the sharp remark perched on the tip of my tongue and steered us off the highway. What little evidence there used to be of a road was nearly hidden by weeds and out-of-control underbrush. Limbs from the surrounding trees reached out and scraped the car as if trying to pull us deeper into the mysterious woods.

“I know I’ve said this before, but none of this is helping your cause.” I gripped the wheel with both hands and slowed our speed. “You’re not taking me to the middle of nowhere just to kill me, are you?”

Lance didn’t reply.

“You could have at least jacked a four wheel drive instead of this old Ford Taurus. You honestly think this thing was made for an off-road adventure?”

“The car will get us there just fine. It’s not much further.”

“Good, because I think we lost the muffler about a mile back.” The drizzle of rain had increased into a steady downpour that made our journey up the mountain even more difficult. “Instead of holding me hostage, why don’t you work with me so we can clear your name?”

“You’re not going to believe anything I say until I can give you proof. It’s obvious my word alone won’t be enough. Actions speak louder, right?”

“That’s what they say. I’m inclined to think that an equal measure of both would work just fine. Can you tell me anything about who we’re going to see?”

“It’s someone you know, or at least I think you do. He knows you, that’s for sure.”

“Yeah, that certainly clears it up. Gee, thanks. I’m getting tired of your riddles. Why won’t you give me a straight answer?”

Lance clung to the handle above the door as we drove through extremely large pot holes. “There will be a time and place for answers.”

I shook my head. Unanswered questions were leading me to even more questions. It was obvious Lance had no intention of telling me anything until we reached our destination.  His quiet calmness bothered me. For someone who had escaped a federal penitentiary and traveled three thousand miles home to clear his name, he seemed collected and reserved.

I didn’t notice panic or fear burning inside his eyes. He didn’t cast a nervous glance over his shoulder every five seconds. It was eerie.

After another mile, the road widened, and we drove into a clearing. I stopped the car and turned it off. The path had come to an end. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I remained quiet. Our breath quickly began to fog up the windows.

After we reached an uncomfortable silence, I couldn’t wait any longer. “Okay, Lance. Now what?”

“We’re going over there.”

Through the windshield, I looked in the direction he pointed, but couldn’t see anything. I turned the key back and flipped the wipers on to clear the view. The blades slid back and forth three times before coming to a stop. It was in that moment I saw what held his attention.

An old cabin sat on the edge of the woods, nearly invisible inside the cloak of darkness cast down by overhanging branches. Nestled into the tree line, it was difficult to spot, which I’m sure had been the original intent when building the structure. Through a window, I could see the faint orange glow of light.

“No one lives here, do they?” I asked. “I don’t see a car or any other vehicles. What’s going on, Lance?”

In my head, I pictured a dark cellar carved out from the ground underneath the cabin. A pile of bones lay in the center, and a set of shackles were attached to one wall. He was indeed a psychopath and had forced me to drive myself to the exact place where he would end my life. It must have been his plan all along.

The lies about his innocence and pleading for me to believe him had all been diversions. His real objective was to get me out of Seal Bay and to a place that could not be found on the map.

I thought of Summer. I would never get the chance to tell her how I genuinely felt. Jimmy would spend months, maybe a year searching for me, but would eventually give up and face the truth that I was gone forever.

“Where are we?” My voice trembled.

“Don’t move.” Lance got out and walked to my side of the car. He opened the door and pointed the gun in my face. “Get out.”

“Lance, please don’t kill me.”

“Shut up.”

Water pelted my cheeks as I climbed out, and immediately my clothes became drenched. I wasn’t sure which would be worse. Getting shot in the back, or drowning where I stood. I desired neither option, but the situation was going from bad, to extremely worse. Now free from the confined space of the Taurus, there would be more of an opportunity to make a play for the gun.

Lance prodded me forward. “Let’s go.”

The rain intensified as we started walking toward the cabin. Every step carried me closer to my grave. As we approached, the churning in my stomach reached hurricane force. My instincts pressed upon me a feeling of dread, a premonition that horrible things were about to transpire. I was helpless to stop it.

We were almost to the front porch when the door flew open, and a man stepped out. The unmistakable sound of someone chambering a shotgun round interrupted the steady noise of rain. I jumped back in surprise at the sudden appearance and cringed thinking I had smashed into Lance’s trigger finger. I breathed a short sigh of relief when I didn’t feel anything rip into my spine.

“If you don’t want to eat buckshot for dinner, I’d suggest you boys stop right there. This is private property. Unless you’re from Publisher’s Clearing House and have an enormous check for me, you need to leave.”

Lance grabbed my shoulder and we did as instructed. He held the gun close, pressed into the small of my back. He whispered into my ear. “Don’t do anything stupid. Stay calm and everything will be fine.”

“Wait,” I shouted. “Don’t shoot. We’re just here to talk.”

“You have twenty seconds to leave my property and never come back.” The man stepped out into the middle of the porch and I saw his face for the first time.

My mouth dropped open in complete shock.

 

Chris Martin

Dropping Stones


One of my favorite stories from the entire Bible is about the woman who was caught in adultery. (John 8:1-11) The Pharisees were chomping at the bit to have her stoned. I can only imagine their frenzy as they dragged the woman to the temple courts where a certain celebrity was teaching. The Bible doesn’t say, but I wonder if they made a huge spectacle on their way to see Jesus. What were they saying to the woman as they neared the temple? Were they calling for other people to join them as they rushed to carry out what would surely be the Godly thing to do? End her life. Seal her fate. Write her off.

I can only imagine the condemnation being poured out from their self-righteous mouths, pushing her further down into the mire of her guilt and shame. Without even knowing who she was, or anything about her story, I bet others joined right in with their judgmental bashing. The Pharisees, after all, were the “holy ones” of the era. They were the religious leaders who followed God’s law without fail. They never got it wrong. No one dared argue with their wisdom and knowledge of the ancient scriptures.

What a surprise it must have been when they placed her in front of Jesus and explained the situation. Instead of immediately answering them with a command to stone her, Jesus ignores the most religious men in all the land, bends down, and begins to scribble in the dirt. There have been many views on what exactly He was writing. I tend to believe that He might have been writing out their own sins. Of course He knew them all, He’s Jesus. When the Pharisees realized what it was, they still repeated their question.

Jesus finally answers by saying that whomever has no sin can throw the first stone. There was no other option than for them to unclinch their tightened fists and drop the stones they were so eager to throw. What else could they have possibly done? I’m sure the crowd had pressed in to see what the great teacher had written. The Pharisees were busted. Here they were trying to trap Jesus, and He completely turned the tables on them.

If anyone standing there had the right to accuse the woman of sinning, it was Jesus Himself. The One with no sin. The One who led a perfect life. He chose forgiveness over her failure.

How often are we quick to judge others? Do we rush around to all of our “Christian” friends eager to bash another imperfect human because of something they’ve said or done? Do we turn our nose up at someone who is marrying a person of the same sex? Do we turn our backs on the fifteen year old pregnant girl who made a mistake? These are the people we should be running to with open arms.

Why would anyone want to follow Christ if all they receive is judgement and condemnation from those who claim to know Him?

Just as the Pharisees, who stood before Jesus thinking they were God’s gift to the unwashed masses, assumed it was their duty to judge, so do we. It’s not at all. We need to realize that just because we have Jesus, we’re not elevated onto some untouchable platform, and all the sinners are wandering around in circles below us. We are all broken. We all hurt. We all struggle. We all desire a relationship with someone who gets it.

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It’s hard to open up your arms to someone in love if you’re carrying a bag of rocks.

The Stranger – Chapter Five


The Stranger was the first novella I published on the Amazon Kindle store. It’s currently for sale at a whopping $.99. I’ve decided to post it here, on my blog, in it’s entirety, for free. I am passionate about writing posts that demonstrate the love and grace of Jesus and what He’s doing in my life, but I also love writing fiction.

Here’s the plan. For the next ten weeks, I will post a chapter each Friday. Let’s call it Fiction Friday. Feel free to hashtag the crap out of that. I hope you enjoy the story. If you like this one, I have a couple more on Amazon. You can find them here: Author Page

Chapter Five

A thin vein of smoke trailed from the barrel like a lithe vapor swirling in the gentle breeze. The smell of sulfur, mixed with a hint of burnt matches, assaulted my senses. The flash illuminated the thick, surrounding blackness, leaving a ghostly image seared into my vision. As the man dropped, the gun, gripped tightly in my hand and now heavy as a ship’s anchor, fell to the damp grass.

Rain fell from the foreboding sky, cold on my face. I blinked several times as if it would erase the horror that unfolded in front of me. His look of hatred as I approached had quickly turned into shock and then pain as the bullet found its mark. The spray of blood from his chest looked like a blossoming rose, casting off the cloak of earth and springing forward into life.

Or was it death? I watched a movie once where the killer would leave one red rose and a piece of paper with the words “Every ending is just another beginning” at the scene of his crimes. I shuddered with revulsion.

“What have you done?”

Riveted on the scene before me, I remained silent, numb.

“Have you killed him?”

My mother’s voice approached from behind. As the haunted whisper toyed with my neck hair, a shiver creased my shoulder blades. A chill, originating from somewhere other than the crisp air, gripped my soul. My heart pounded with a rhythm much quicker than normal as it threatened to burst.

“Dillon?”

The thunderous echo still reverberated inside my ears, pounding like a blacksmith fashioning iron on an anvil. I had never taken a life before, but the resulting feelings that churned inside my stomach were to be expected.

Nausea reared its ugly head and I dropped to my knees, emptying the contents of my stomach. My mother rushed past me as I floundered in my distress, to the motionless form of a dead man lying on the ground.

“Robert? Can you hear me? Robert?” When shaking the lifeless body resulted in no response, my mother began to slap him across the face, yelling and screaming obscenities that I’d never heard before.

“M-mom. Stop. He’s dead.”

A flash of lighting illuminated the sky followed immediately by a clap of thunder that shook the ground. I rolled onto my back and closed my eyes.

I was eleven years old when I shot and killed the man who came home drunk every night and beat my mother relentlessly. He wasn’t half the human being my real father had been. My Dad sacrificed his life in the line of duty as a police officer. A decorated hero who tragically died before I had even reached fourth grade.

The shooting was ruled accidental, and there were never any charges filed. Fearing I would be taken away forever, my mom testified that I found the gun in a dresser drawer and carried it outside. Robert had been returning from the garage where he worked on old cars, saw me with the weapon, and tried to take it from me. The trigger was pulled in the process, resulting in the man’s death.

Although only a minor, if the situation had been deemed a homicide, I could have been tried as an adult in that state. Had the events unfolded in that manner, I’m not sure where I would have ended up. I might have been the one locked up in prison, not Lance.

Pushing distant memories back into the darkened recess of my mind, I peered around the corner toward the front of Mel’s. I couldn’t see anyone, but the entrance wasn’t visible from where I stood. I would have to get closer.

In the distance, the wail of sirens sounded like a pack of wolves howling their respect to a full moon. The butt of Sam’s 9MM felt foreign, yet comfortable in my hand. With a tightened grip, I whispered a quick prayer and started around the front.

I stopped as something hard pressed into the base of my skull. Without looking, I knew it was Lance holding his gun to my head. My brain started to calculate the time it would take to spin and make a move, but the sinking sensation in my gut overruled it immediately.

“No sudden movements, Dillon. Let’s not make this more complicated than it already is. Slowly drop your gun, or should I say Sam’s gun, to the ground.”

Unsure why I decided to act cocky, I gritted my teeth. “And if I don’t?”

Lance didn’t hesitate. “I’ll blow your head off. I already shot Sam. There’s nothing stopping me from killing you.”

He made an excellent point. I dropped the gun as ordered and put my hands up. “Okay, you’ve got me. Now what?”

Lance grabbed my shoulder and forced me to turn around. “We go this way.”

We walked in the opposite direction from the front of Mel’s, where I assumed everyone was still gathered waiting to see what happened next. We hurried past an empty storage building behind the cafe and down to the road. Around a curve sat a late model, beige sedan.

Lance pointed to the driver’s side. “Get in.”

“Where are we going?”

“Just get in the car and shut up.” We entered the vehicle and Lance motioned forward. “That way.” He rested the gun on his lap, but kept it aimed in my general direction. If fired, a bullet would not necessarily kill me, but it would undoubtedly hit me somewhere, and that would be enough to stop any thought of overtaking my captor.

After starting the car and pulling away from the curb, I gripped the steering wheel with both hands, seething inside. I had been careless in allowing Lance to get the drop on me. We were driving North, out of Seal Bay. That was the only decent thing my mistake had produced. At least my friends and everyone would be safe for the moment.

I glanced over at the passenger seat. His grip on the gun had relaxed, but his finger still rested against the trigger. His face was as unreadable as a book with blank pages. “So where are we going, Lance? Why are you doing all of this?”

He stared straight ahead. “Do you believe in fate?”

It wasn’t how I pictured the conversation might unfold. In fact, I had never thoroughly prepared myself for being kidnapped and forced into driving to an unknown location. Lance had taken me entirely out of my comfort zone and into a world I only read about in my fiction.

If his actions stemmed from psychological imbalance or a recurrence of suppressed memories, he would need a shrink, not me. In any other circumstance, I would have gladly offered to drive him straight to Dr. Phil for an evaluation. Instead, I answered with “I believe in a higher power.”

“You mean God?”

“When I was in the program, I learned that a higher power can be whatever you want it to be. God. Science. Buddha. As long as it displays a loving and caring nature and is greater than us as individuals.”

“So, you traveled the twelve steps, huh?”

“Every single one.”

Lance slowly shook his head, but his gaze remained on the road ahead. “After all you’ve been through in your life, I’m truly surprised to hear you talk about a higher power, and a loving, caring nature and all that. If anyone has the right to be pissed at the world, it’s you.”

Earlier when he had the gun pointed in my face, I told Lance I had indeed killed someone. Most of the people in Seal Bay knew my story, but there were some who hadn’t been entrusted with the full details. “The past is the past, Lance. We can’t go back and change it.”

“Still, it can’t be easy living with what you’ve been through. You had no real father around. Your mom all but disowned you after the incident. Years later you get married, but your wife leaves you for someone else. I can’t believe you didn’t kill yourself a long time ago.”

“Yeah, well, things happen. Life goes on and we deal with it. Where are we headed, man? What’s this about?” I refused to get baited into a conversation about the darkest parts of my life. Admittedly, there was still lingering hurt that time had not washed away, but Lance wasn’t the person I wanted to confide in.

Several ideas for escape had crossed my mind. Unfortunately, each included the possibility of the gun in Lance’s hand discharging and blowing a hole in my side. It wasn’t the weight loss plan I looked for at the moment.

“I didn’t kill anyone, Dillon.”

“You mentioned that earlier, but I still don’t understand what you’re trying to do here.”

“I was framed for those murders. The tools from my house. My truck. Everything the police found that incriminated me, was planted there by the real killer.”

“You really expect me to believe that?”

“I hoped you would. It’s taken me eight years to get out of prison so I can prove my innocence. I need you to believe me, Dillon.” Lance looked over with pleading eyes.

“There’s a lot of people on death row who claim they are innocent. Yet, for whatever reason, no lawyer can ever prove it. Besides, how do you expect me to be on your side when you’ve had that gun in my face all morning?”

“I have to convince you somehow that what I’m saying is the truth. I’ve got nobody to turn to. I was hoping you would help me.”

The prosecution had presented an air tight case in court against Lance. The defense never had a chance and they knew it from day one of the trial. The evidence had been overwhelming, plus the testimony from eye witnesses who saw his truck where the bodies were dumped.

Lance had never been the most popular guy back in high school, but he wasn’t an outcast either. He didn’t fit the stereo typical profile of a future Charles Manson. He shied away from sports and anything else that would thrust him into the spotlight,  but he had friends, and not ones who only wore black and never attended parties.

He dated a couple cheerleaders who were two grades ahead of him. He would talk to anyone but wouldn’t initiate the conversation. He was the kind of person that didn’t stand out, but someone easy enough to get along with.

“Well, you might have had a better chance securing my help if you hadn’t come into town with a gun and threatening to shoot people. Especially me.”

“My intentions were to come in peace. People freaked out when they saw me and made things worse. It didn’t have to come to this. I just wanted to talk.”

“Do you blame them? And how did you get out of prison? You must have escaped somehow. They’ve got to be looking for you. Am I right?”

Lance nodded. “Yeah, more than likely they’re searching for me by now. I have several days head start, so there’s time.”

“Give yourself up,” I said. “This isn’t the way to prove your innocence. Someone could have been killed back at Mel’s. You shot Sam. That’s not going to look extremely convincing on the report.”

“I can’t. It has to be my way.”

I could hear the frustration in my voice. “Look, just stop all of this and explain your side of the story. Tell them what you’ve told me and if it’s the truth, then they can decide how to proceed.”

“They would throw me back into prison the moment they caught me. I can’t take any chances until I prove to you that I didn’t do it.”

“And how are you planning on doing that?”

“I’m taking you to see the man who did.”

 

Chris Martin

The Stranger – Chapter Four


The Stranger was the first novella I published on the Amazon Kindle store. It’s currently for sale at a whopping $.99. I’ve decided to post it here, on my blog, in it’s entirety, for free. I am passionate about writing posts that demonstrate the love and grace of Jesus and what He’s doing in my life, but I also love writing fiction.

Here’s the plan. For the next ten weeks, I will post a chapter each Friday. Let’s call it Fiction Friday. Feel free to hashtag the crap out of that. I hope you enjoy the story. If you like this one, I have a couple more on Amazon. You can find them here: Author Page

Chapter Four

At some point in my life, I would love to take a week of vacation and visit Italy. Romance, pizza, wine. There couldn’t be a place more opposite of Seal Bay with its fog, weird smells drifting in from the ocean, and lack of anything to do. If it wasn’t for the computer business keeping me busy, I might have fallen off the ledge of sanity a long time ago.

I would also like to attend the Masters in Augusta and quite possibly star in an action movie with Tom Cruise. Those are some items I jotted down one night after work when Dena suggested I come up with a bucket list. At first I brushed it off as being one step above stupid, but after fifteen minutes, I was thoroughly enjoying the process.

I’ve gone over it several times, and nowhere on the sheet of paper have I penned the desire to get shot in the face.

I’ve tried to live a decent life and not be mean to others. I’ve helped little old ladies cross the street. I adopted a cat once that was two hours away from getting euthanized. A week later, it attacked my leg, and I not-so-gently removed it from my home. I go to church sometimes, and I don’t drink anymore. I feel I’ve done my part to make this world a better place to live in.

I couldn’t think of any reason my life should be snuffed out at such an early age.

As Lance squeezed the trigger with the intent of sending me into the afterlife, I closed my eyes. I’ve often wondered what would flash through my mind in such a moment. People say in the arms of imminent death, their lives scroll by in hurried bits and fragments of memories. Like scenes from a movie, their best and worst times scroll by in a matter of seconds. Some suffer from painful regret while others are quite pleased with the things they accomplished.

Either way, the majority of people view these final moments with a certain sense of dread and hopelessness as they realize they suddenly have no control over their own destiny. They offer a quick prayer to a higher power hoping their lives meant something in the big scheme of things and that one day their descendants will speak of them with the utmost respect and love.

As I waited on death to shuffle the cards and deal me a rotten hand, I felt oddly at peace. Sure, there were so many more things I wanted to do in life, but if my time had come and the bucket list was a lesson in futility, I would face the end with dignity and whatever honor I had left. The baggage from my past contained plenty of mistakes, but I had spent years cleaning them up the best way I knew how.

The “click” following the trigger pull was sweeter than a multitude of angels singing in my ear. Either the hammer had fallen on an empty chamber in the revolver, or Lance had not invested in quality ammunition. Regardless of which conclusion was correct, I didn’t have hot lead drilling a tunnel through my forehead. For that, I was extremely grateful.

Immediately, after realizing the grim reaper had not claimed my soul, I heard an explosion and then a cracking sound as table pieces flew up around me. Another boom and something whizzed by my left ear. As I dropped to the floor in search of cover, Lance bolted from our booth and raced toward the back exit, blindly triggering off rounds in my direction.

People screamed and started running out the front door, despite Summer’s pleas to remain calm and orderly. I thought I heard Jimmy yell out, but I wasn’t sure over all the commotion.

Apparently, Sam spotted Lance with the gun in his hand and decided to shoot first and ask questions later. His intentions were noble and most certainly warranted, but one day I’ll have to thank him for nearly killing me in the process. Had he missed his mark by only a mere fraction of an inch, I would have been forced to join our beloved dog Charlie in his club for those unfortunate souls missing an ear.

“Dillon!” Sam knelt down to look at me under the table. “You okay?”

It was the first time I remembered seeing Sam Dresden without a smile on his face. Slow to anger and a person who always saw the glass half full, there wasn’t anyone he wouldn’t talk to and befriend. For being somewhat overweight, which he always referred to as permanent pudginess, not fat, he was remarkably quick and light-footed. He worked out on a daily basis, and the tree trunks he called arms were rock solid.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I answered, somewhat unsure. “You get him?”

Sam crouched in a shooters stance and gripped his gun with both hands. “I don’t think so. I got more table than anything.” Keeping one eye on the rear exit, he looked me over. “Who is that guy?”

“It’s Lance Puckett.”

“That’s not possible. Lance is in prison on death row. Every one knows that.”

“I know how crazy it sounds, Sam, but it’s him. I didn’t believe it at first, but I do now. I talked to him. I looked into his eyes. Trust me, it’s him.”

Sam frowned. “It can’t be, Dillon. He was three thousand miles away in a maximum security prison. How did he get out?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Why did he come back?”

“To prove his innocence.”

“He’s got a funny way of doing it. Coming back, shooting up my town. There’s no way he’s walking out of Seal Bay alive. You stay here.” Cautiously, Sam moved to the back door which remained open after Lance fled. He disappeared outside.

I climbed to my feet and stood on trembling knees. After nearly eating a bullet, I wasn’t sure I could walk. I wanted to check on Summer, but everyone had rushed from the cafe with the arrival of Sam. I turned with the intent of searching for my friends and froze when I heard the shot.

I looked at the back door, unsure of who would walk through. I couldn’t remember how many shots Lance had fired. He said he found the gun in the woman’s glove box. He might not have had enough time to secure additional ammo.

In horror, I watched as a bloody hand gripped the inside of the door frame.

I stood transfixed on the rear entrance of the cafe and never heard Jimmy approach. “Dillon, are you okay? What happened? Where’s Sam?”

I couldn’t speak. I held my breath and waited for either a successful Sheriff to return, or our worst nightmare. I prayed mere bullets would be enough to stop Lance Puckett. If he was indeed a ghost or apparition, the weapons of this world would prove useless in our defense.

Survival instinct pleaded for me to grab Jimmy and find more suitable cover. If fate revealed Lance as the contestant behind door number one, we were dead. There would be no consolation prize.

Jimmy followed my gaze. “Oh, crap.” He took a step backward.

Blind luck, or maybe divine intervention, had granted me asylum from death’s cold kiss once already. I’m not a card carrying member of the feline community with eight spare lives in my wallet, so I doubted another reprieve would materialize ever again.

“Dillon?” Jimmy grabbed my shoulder. I wasn’t sure if he wanted to pull me away, or use me as a human shield. For the most part, I’m quite confident he would try to remove me from harm’s way before thrusting me directly into its path. There is always that small doubt that, in extreme circumstances, it might turn into every man for himself.

I hoped the depths of our friendship would not be tested.

Before I could acknowledge my friend, Sam fell into the doorway, clutching his right arm. Along with my distaste of guns, seeing blood, outside of a Hollywood production, has the same effect as ramming a finger down my throat. Despite that, the invisible grip of immobility released me, and I moved into action. “Jimmy, call 911! Get an ambulance here now! Tell them Lance ran out the back of Mel’s, and he’s armed.”

As I reached Sam’s side, I heard Jimmy barking into the phone. I grabbed the Sheriff under both arms and dragged him to the booth. “Where are you hit?”

He grimaced as I inspected his arm. Blindfolded, I could tear apart and fix computers, but was clueless when it came to the human body. “Below the shoulder,” Sam answered. “It’s a flesh wound. Nothing serious. Need to…stop bleeding…get something…to tie it off.”

“Ambulance is on its way.” I slipped my belt off and knelt to the floor. Wrapping the band around the area just above the wound, I fastened it tight. He groaned as color continued to drain from his face. “That should stop the bleeding until the paramedics get here. Where’s your gun?”

“I don’t know. I think I dropped it outside.”

“That’s not good. How many shots does Lance have left?”

Sam closed his eyes and gritted his teeth. The pain washed over him in waves. “Not sure. One, maybe two. I couldn’t tell if he reloaded or not.”

“Where did he go after he shot you?”

“Around…front…he tried to kill me…stop him…” His breathing became more labored.

“Sam, don’t try and talk. Take it easy.”

Jimmy ended the phone call and rushed over. “Dillon? Is he okay?”

I shook my head. “I don’t know, I’m no doctor. He said it was just a flesh wound, so I guess he’s okay.” I grabbed the front of Jimmy’s shirt and pulled him close. “Stay here with Sam and keep that belt tight. We have to control the bleeding.”

“I got this, dude. I won’t let anything happen to him.”

I stood up and looked around.

“Where are you going?” Jimmy asked.

“I need to find Sam’s gun.” I feared Lance had already procured the dropped weapon. My heart hammered louder than thumping rotors of a helicopter screaming across tree tops. I would probably pass out in a useless heap when my adrenaline quit pumping.

“Be careful, man. Lance is off his rocker. If he has no problem shooting a sheriff, he won’t hesitate to blow you away.”

I was thankful for Jimmy and his friendship. He was two years older than me by a couple months, but I still looked up to him as one would respect an older sibling. “I may be a computer geek, but I can handle my business. You just worry about Sam.”

Jimmy smiled. “I’ve got him. And, for the record, I know you’re much more than just a computer geek. We all know that.”

“I’m no hero,” I mumbled.

“Hero has various meanings, Dillon. Just watch your back. I’ll wait for the ambulance.”

I nodded and started for the back door. Screams erupted from the front of Mel’s, followed closely by two rapid explosions. Every bit of color drained from Jimmy’s face. “Gunshots.” He jumped to his feet. “Dena!”

I grabbed his arm. “Wait! Jimmy, you’ve got to stay here. I’ll go around from the back and see what’s happening.”

He started to resist, but thankfully decided to remain inside. “Don’t let that animal hurt her, Dillon. If something happens, he’s going to wish he had never left prison.”

“I won’t.” I peeked out the door. Lance was nowhere to be seen. Just a few steps from the corner of the building, I found Sam’s Glock 9MM. I picked it up and made sure a cartridge was chambered. I released the clip and counted five more rounds. I slammed the magazine home and crept along the side wall.

It was time to end this.

 

Chris Martin