AWAKENING MACBETH is a serial novel of romantic suspense with a paranormal twist. Two episodes of AWAKENING MACBETH are released every week. The story so far: Brodie has searched for a clue to her father’s legacy of conversations with evil but all she has found is a passage from a classic novel about King Arthur. She passes out, only to find herself in her father’s dreams of Camelot. Just as she expects to see Lancelot with Pedder’s evil white eyes, she is struck down by searing pain.
The smell of dry, dusty urine replaced the stink of mold.
Brodie forced open her eyes to see that she was huddled in a narrow alley sided by faded gray cement structures. The walls were pockmarked by age and disrepair. Overhead, the sky was blue and mercilessly bright. The height of the buildings on either side shaded the alley but the heat beat against her like surf. There were no trees, no grass. Everything around her was still and dead except the heat.
Brodie slowly got to her feet, surprised to find that she was dressed like a biblical shepherd in a shapeless beige robe and leather sandals. There was fabric on her head secured by a twist of cording. The fabric trailed over her shoulders, protecting her neck from the sun.
Voices murmured above her, making her start. Seconds later she heard the faint hum of an engine. Brodie looked up to see two swarthy men on the second story roof of a building bordering the alley.
The engine noise grew louder and the men chattered excitedly in a language she didn’t understand. Suddenly, Brodie knew whose dream this was and where it had taken her. Terror surged into the very core of her soul.
She started running down the alley toward the sound of the engines. The air tasted like sand and the heat made it hard to breathe. The long robe got in her way and something dragged against her right side but she ignored it.
The alley emptied into a large dirt area that in better times had probably been a village square. It was bordered on three sides by a motley collection of empty houses and shuttered shops. The fourth side was bordered by a single lane road that stretched into flat nothingness in either direction. On the other side of the road, dun-colored hills hunched against the merciless sun, offering up a few scrubby bushes to whatever gods had forgotten this rocky emptiness.
Brodie could see a convoy of military vehicles approaching the far side of the nearly deserted village. The sound of the engines was like the angry buzzing of bees.
The bloated body of a dead goat was lying half on the road near the first village structure. The lead Hummer swerved slightly to avoid it.
As the driver’s door drew parallel with the corpse, the goat’s body erupted in a ball of fury and fire. The left side of the Hummer lifted and then the entire vehicle rose into the sky, spewing fire and flesh and metal.
The world roared and the concussion wave blew Brodie back into the alley. She fell to the ground like a rag doll, the wind knocked out of her.
Agonizing moments went by as she fought for breath, her mouth and nose clogged with grit. Her ears rang from the blast. When Brodie was finally able to crawl to the mouth of the alley the scene made her retch with fear.
The road by the far side of the village square was engulfed in flames pumping oily black smoke three stories into the sky. Resting on its side, the Hummer was the center of the inferno. Numerous small fires burned all around the wrecked vehicle. The hard-packed ground was stained with blood and littered with the detritus of war–bits of camouflage fabric, twists of metal, a blood-soaked boot. The heat of the blazing fires, trapped between the cement houses and the hills, cooked the village square with a stink of charred flesh and burning oil. The air was littered with ash.
The roar of the flames competed with the shouts of the Marines and the crack of gunfire. A firefight raged between insurgents on the rooftops and the Marines who’d used their vehicles to create a defensive position.
Brodie could see a small, bloody knot of Marines huddled against a low wall on the far side of the square. They were out of the firefight but perilously close to the burning Hummer.
Joe’s helmet was off and his hair was as short as in the picture in Old Forge. His eyes were a wild blue in his smoke-smudged face. The stump of his left leg was a bloody pulp and smoke was rising from his body. Blood stained the sand around him. As he shouted the color drained rapidly from his face.
Another Marine bent over Joe and swiftly searched Joe’s flak vest pocket for something. The Marine had to be Joe’s corporal, Carson.
A third Marine stepped up. Brodie could see the medic’s insignia on his bag. Joe’s best friend in Iraq, Trey Morales.
He’s telling me, I’ve got you, man, I’ve got you. He’s doing two things at once; getting a tourniquet on what’s left of my leg and putting out the fire.
As Brodie nearly buckled with relief, the corporal moved aside to let the medic squat down in front of Joe. Carson thrust at Morales the package from Joe’s vest.
Morales didn’t take it. His movements seemed unrushed as he took off his helmet, revealing the glossy black hair Brodie remembered from the picture. He rocked slowly on his heels for what seemed like forever, the helmet strap dangling from his fingers, ignoring Carson. Joe and Morales appeared to be talking. Smoke still rose in tendrils from Joe’s body.
“Do something,” Brodie said, her voice small and lost in the bark of the guns and the snap of the flames.
Carson elbowed Morales aside, sending the medic sprawling, and pressed some sort of cloth over Joe’s lap. Joe reacted by turning his head to one side, and Brodie could see how the veins in his neck were taut with pain. The smoke was smothered but the rusty stain around him continued to grow, the sand absorbing the blood like water.
Morales came back at the corporal and flung the younger man away from Joe and toward the burning Hummer. Carson rolled and scrambled back to the protection of the wall as the firefight raged behind them.
Something was very wrong, Brodie knew. She wasn’t watching the story unfold the way Joe had told it to her, the way Trey had saved his life. Propelled by a courage she never knew she had, she left the safety of the mouth of the alley and started moving along the inside wall of the square toward the blazing inferno and the three men on the far side.
There was a loud crack. The burning Hummer wobbled and crashed down on its tires. Brodie cringed as the heat wave buffeted her.
Morales squatted by Joe and tipped back his head and laughed.
Brodie saw his eyes and stopped.
Morales’s tawny skin threw the diseased white webbing into sharp relief. Pedder’s eyes glinted like dirty snow in the handsome medic’s face.
Thanks for reading all the way to the end of this episode of AWAKENING MACBETH, a romantic suspense serial with a paranormal twist! I’m the author of THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY and the Detective Emilia Cruz mysteries set in Acapulco including CLIFF DIVER, HAT DANCE, and DIABLO NIGHTS, all available on Amazon and recently optioned for film. Please stay connected by joining the Mystery Monthly team. You’ll get exclusive excerpts, sales alerts, and reader news for mystery lovers like you and me.