Friday, August 27, 2010

Opening Scene - Hidden in Shadows

I've mentioned my assassin paranormal story so many times that I figured why not post an excerpt? Here's the opening scene for Hidden in Shadows:

My prey muttered a curse and slid a few feet down the miniature mountainside. I handled the gravel climb with ease, but the man I stalked panted heavily and looked around with wild eyes.

Some rocks tumbled down as he stumbled, and I ducked behind an oak tree. I didn’t want my prey to spot me and make a break for it. I’d waited four days for this — my opportunity to hunt and kill him at my leisure. Four painstakingly long days in which the lowlife spent his days with other lowlifes, and my patience had nearly worn down to the point that I wanted to kill both him and his friends.

A druggie who siphoned his rich wife’s accounts and regularly used their young boy as a punching bag until he was a bloody and broken mess, I despised the malefactor. Little kids were innocents, they deserved better than that. At least the wife had the sense to run away with her boy. Not once, but twice. When the dirtbag kept following them, demanding more money, she had called on me to save them.

How ironic. I would be saving two lives by stealing one.

The sun sank heavy, ready for slumber. Reds and oranges blurred together like a bucolic landscape from Thomas Kinkade. The view from the top must be beautiful. That is, if the sweetgum and pine trees didn’t hide it.

I peeked around the oak. The man sat only a few feet away, on the other side of the path, idly picking up pebbles and letting them fall in a pile, the orange-red clay-like soil dyeing his pudgy fingers. His labored breathing shook his large frame, and his face was bright red. If he kept up this pace, I might not have to do anything — his heart could give out.

But I couldn’t rely on the possibility of a heart attack. I removed the large knife from its sheath inside my right boot and examined my reflection. A hairnet and black scarf covered my hair so only my face was visible — grim and determined.

A loud groan sounded to my left. My prey left a rather large mound of rocks behind and resumed climbing the misnomer Driskill Mountain, Louisiana.

As did I. Careful to stay out of his line of sight, I followed until a twig snapped beneath my feet, the sound exploding in the piercing silence. Hardly vigilant enough, however, evident by the startled yelp and naked terror in his eyes.

“Who are you?” His voice trembled, his gaze soaking in my all-black outfit and the blade pointed at him. He stood rooted in place, like a deer caught in a poacher’s spotlight.

Crap. I was getting lax in my haste to kill. I should have waited until sunset, like I normally do. Then I could hide in the shadows. But now? It was too late.

My thoughts remained on shadows and hiding, and my prey yelled again. My eyes widened with surprise. His face was now pale, as if he had seen a ghost. What’s wrong with him?

“What are you?” the druggie shrieked. He rubbed his eyes as if seeing things. Perhaps he was high. Muttering to himself, perhaps saying a prayer, he turned and rushed past me to flee down the path. A few butterflies emerged from their resting positions in protest to his disruptive flight.

Wonderful. Before I could aim with my knife, he started to zigzag his descent. I loped down the path, my athletic prowess making it easy to catch up to him. I slammed my hands into his back and shoved. With a strangled cry, he fell. His legs jerked out from under him, and he tumbled sideways down the large hill. A loud thud and a gasp of pain followed.

I stepped down the overgrown path and found the gambler lying prone, his head against the pile of rocks he’d built. Blood stained the rock beneath his head. He gnashed his teeth, and his eyes were so tightly squeezed shut, he had to be seeing stars. Scratches on his limbs suggested he had crashed through several bushes before he had stopped.

Despite his injury, he stared at me with unabashed fright. His fingers scrabbled at the loose rocks and closed around one. He threw it at me, but it fell short and skidded toward my feet. With careful deliberation, I stalked him as he tried to roll over onto his hands and knees, his body refusing to cooperate. “W-who are you?” he repeated, his voice low and full of tension.

“Your murderer.” I plunged the sharp knife into his throat and severed his trachea, the surrounding muscles giving way easily.

My victim gasped, no longer able to breathe. Horrified gurgles emitted from his ruined throat. Instead of trying to attack me, he pressed his hands to the wound, attempting to staunch the slow flow of blood. Most of his life liquid flowed into the split trachea and filled his lungs. He emptied his bowels and stained his pants as his demise drew nearer.

The stench of the blood and fear filled the air, a scent both sweeter and more bitter than of death. I pressed my foot onto his chest to keep him in place as he spluttered and suffocated. His eyes were wide, surprisingly not with trepidation but with resignation. I wiped the bloodied blade on my undershirt and inserted it back into my boot.

It takes a certain amount of skill to sever someone’s windpipe and avoid the major blood vessels. A skill I had mastered years ago, when I had first started taking assignments. A rather clean but painful way to die as the blood fills the trachea, not squirting like in the movies. Between the blood and the swelling, the victim slowly chokes to death.

Pulling a piece of paper and a pen out of my pocket, I crossed off the last name of the list and waited. His skin grew cold and clammy, and his pupils dilated as his body began to go into shock. Loss of consciousness followed. Darkness descended before I was certain my prey stopped breathing.

Neil Botel was dead. Time to collect my paycheck.

Why am I a hired assassin?

Two reasons.

One, because it pays well. Extremely well.

And two, because I can.


Cherie Reich said...

Ooo...I love this opening! It makes me want to read more!!

Beth said...

Very good! And your pic on FB looks so sweet and innocent--holding a baby, no less. Who knew you had this side? :)

Enjoyed it.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Thanks, Cherie and Beth!

Lisa Rusczyk said...

Creepy, very nice. *covers her throat*

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Nicole,
I knew you were talented, but this blows me away. You covered all five senses here and involved me from the first sentence. Hope you and family are doing well.

Diane Craver said...
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Diane Craver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diane Craver said...

I'll try again. I keep losing my internet while I was posting but apparently my comment was left 3 times, then I deleted two of them and now I see the 3rd is gone. LOL

Your excerpt is chilling and beautifully written. I enjoyed reading it. Have a great day!

Unknown said...

Good grief, Nicole!!! And you're such a sweet beautiful young thing. Who would think you knew so much about assasinaitions? I was riveted to the screen, on the edge of my seat. Absolutely superb! Celia

Cheryl Pierson said...

Nicole! LOL This is great! You made me feel the fear in that poor man as well as the iciness of the assassin. Very well done.

SherryGLoag said...

Wow! His deliberate intention is chilling as is the graphic scene of death.
Page turning stuff.

Epertase said...

Very nice writing. You are talented indeed.

Julie Dao said...

GREAT opening! I'm not a big fan of paranormal but it pulled me right in. Keep writing!

Tina D said...

Hi Nicole,

Oh, I love it. Like the art work for your covers. Do you design your own covers? Is this one on sale yet?

Tina D

Nicole Zoltack said...

Thanks everyone for the wonderful comments! I'm glad you all like the opening.

To answer your questions, Tina, I don't design my own covers. Not that talented. And this story isn't for sale yet. I'm currently trying to find an agent for it. Thanks for dropping by!

Ann Best said...

Well done! It kept me reading.

I found you through KarenG's BBQ. Glad I did. This IS an incredibly beautiful template. How wonderful that you won Natalie's services!!

Fantasy has never been my favorite genre, but I'm beginning to like it more and more as I get older. It has a medieval feel about it, and I do like the Medieval period of time and literature.

I'm now your follower and hope you'll come over to my blog too.