Five years ago, Jack Ballinger was a police
He has since moved from the small upstate New York town of Black Falls for greener pastures and a peaceful life alone in the Green Mountain State. Time has changed Jack -- he is no longer the man he used to be. A significant challenge for him has been the heartbreaking loss of his boyfriend, companion, and one true love, Steve.
Now alone, Jack has yet to deal rationally with the immediate changes of his new life. After losing his partner, Jack drank heavily to numb the pain and forget his life-changing loss. Now, he must find a way to move forward without Steve and the life he built for himself. Joining an Alcoholics Anonymous group helps quiet the voices that still keep him awake at night. But something much darker has followed him to his life in the quiet corners of Vermont.
When Jack thinks he has buried the scars of his past, a new nightmare emerges. How far will Jack go to end the imminent evil in his life and kill it for good?
Trigger warning: this story addresses suicide and suicidal ideation.
My work boots clipped across the newly polished floor, squeaking with each determined step toward the security guard’s office in the back of the mall. I didn’t usually get frightened, but after the week’s events of Jacob Adler’s murder and my recurring hallucinations, I was on guard twenty-four-seven. The wall I’d built after Steve died sent me into a tailspin. I lost my self-confidence to “live on -- move on,” as Steve had put it. Getting out of bed was the most challenging part of the day, getting started. But not as difficult as being a suspect in somebody else’s murder. I locked up in the office, hung my jacket on the wall peg along with my badge, fastened my uniform hat on top of my coat, and secured the building. I walked around the side of the shopping center to get to my truck, which was parked near the auto shop garage in the adjacent lot. My keys clanged against the side of my uniform work belt. There was a crispness to the air as it gusted across my face. When I reached my truck, I stopped and glanced at the imposing three-floor structure of the Rushford Shopping Mall. It had been a game-changer, I told myself. When my life was at its lowest, the job as mall security had saved me. Moving from upstate New York to Vermont and being hired at a stone’s throw distance from where everything had bottomed out of my life, life could not be better. I had to keep reminding myself that I was lucky. This was meant to be. I was living. No – I was surviving the best way I knew how. The sharp gust of wind filled my eyes with a deep sadness. I slipped my key into the driver’s side door. I jumped inside, cranking the station to a country song I knew Steve would roll his eyes at, but his enthusiastic expression brightened my mood. I sat in the quiet interior of my truck, my head falling against the headrest, my eyes closing to the welcoming solitude. I drummed my hands on the bottom of the steering wheel. Then screeching tires peeled around the sharp curve of the parking lot where the lot met the edge of the road, and a song about lost love faded from memory. I opened my eyes and raised my head to tires squealing. In the rearview mirror, I glimpsed a vehicle idling behind me. I didn’t notice it at first, but the car blocked me. I adjusted my seat and stared out the rear windshield at the obscure figure behind the wheel. I couldn’t see their face, but the figure looked reedy and reached an arm out the open window, pointing at me.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Thomas Grant Bruso knew he wanted to be a writer at an early
age. He has been a voracious reader of genre fiction since childhood.
literary inspirations are Ray Bradbury, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Jim
Grimsley, Karin Fossum, and Joyce Carol Oates.
Bruso loves animals, reading
books, and writing fiction, and prefers Sudoku to crossword puzzles.
another life, he was a freelance writer and wrote for magazines and newspapers.
In college, he won the Hermon H. Doh Sonnet Competition. Now, he writes and
publishes fiction and reviews books for his hometown newspaper, The
He lives in upstate New York.
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER:
Thomas Grant Bruso will be awarding $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.