Excerpts from To Inherit a Murderer

novel cover: To Inherit a Murderer, a novel by E. J. RuekThese are excerpts from To To Inherit a Murderer (Book I: The Ward), a book about a woman who doesn’t believe in the existence of evil who is willed custody of a boy everyone labels as just that.

To Inherit a Murderer (Book I: The Ward) is available in paperback and in eBook.

Prologue

THE MAID LEFT, switching out the lights one by one until Billy was all alone with the darkness.  Billy liked the dark.  It brought him closer.

Tonight, he heard them talking.  School again.  School.  After Christmas.  That meant people telling him what to do and where to go.  Billy didn’t like being told—at all.  Well, he wasn’t going back.  This time he’d make sure they couldn’t send him.

He made a mark in the darkness, his mind tracing a unique symbol that was his alone.  It was a symbol that, somehow, made his wishes happen.  And he wished now, with all his might, squeezing shut his eyes so tight that tears leaked out the corners.  No school, he thought.  No school.

Inside his eyes, shards of light danced and flashed.  The doctors called them phosphenes.  He called them thought lightning.  And they worked for him.  Sometimes.  Tonight, he’d make them work.  No school.

In time, he slept.  And he dreamed—a tunnel with stripes, stripes that went beneath him.  A monster was coming toward him, its four eyes so bright they blinded him.  He screamed and twisted to escape, but a jolt went through him.

.   .   .

He woke to darkness.  Sweat beaded his forehead; it drenched his bed.  He waited for somebody to come.  Nobody did.

After a while, he relaxed.  He was safe in bed.  No monster.  His mind smiled.  No school, it said as he drifted off to sleep again.

Then he had another nightmare.  His mother—blonde, blue-eyed, icy cold—turned into a black-haired, black-eyed witch with hands of red-hot iron and a mouth that spit white lightning.  Again, he woke up screaming.  Nobody came, though.  They never would.

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From Chapter One

She was forty-one, had never been a mother, and didn’t want to be. Yet, here he was, delivered to her sans bows or ribbons, all tied up in legalese. She was named William’s legal guardian, this the fine result of stipulations in a will after she had agreed some dozen years past to be his godmother. Had she known then the consequences of accepting what was supposed to be an honorary title with few responsibilities beyond the yearly birthday gift and Christmas present, she would have declined.

“Ms. Rheinhart?”

“Yes,” she said, jolted from her whirling thoughts as another piece of paper was passed beneath her nose.

“If you’ll sign that document?”

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From Chapter Ten

It was eight-thirty when Deborah crawled back into bed, Hood snuggling in beside her, happy to be her best pal again.  But her respite was short-lived.  She was startled awake some two hours later to the sound of breaking glass and house alarms.  Hood woofed, then bounded down, scratching at the door and whining.

She pulled on her jeans, shoveled on her slouch-arounds, then jammed up the access code in her haste and used the door through the atrium to get out.  Hood bounded ahead, but Deborah was right behind him as yelling in the kitchen mingled with the whooping sirens that meant house security was breached.  Pulling out her cell phone, she coded “HOLD” to stop the call to 911.

The commotion was in the kitchen.  Hood stood stock still in the doorway, one ear flat, one canted over, a confused dog just watching, whining, and occasionally grumbling a growl on his breath.  He cast his head back toward her, his eyes showing white.  Deborah pushed past him, another disaster scene branding itself into her brain—a kitchen chair jammed through the window over the sink, a kitchen faucet broken off and spraying water, Tony backed against the wall by the garbage can with his arm around William’s neck, his other hand on the boy’s forehead…blood.

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From Chapter Seventeen

Back in her room, she opened the pack, her fingers stiff and shaking on the long forbidden pleasure.  Extracting one despite the no-smoking rule, she lit it and inhaled deeply, the nicotine hitting her system like a hammer—a pleasant hammer. Nicotine calmed her mind.

Sirens nearby, the sound bright and sharp through the open balcony doors, broke through her reverie, and she glanced out again.  Lights flashed, strobe-like around her, but she was lost in thought again…of William and of Myrrh.  Those lights weren’t from an emergency vehicle, though.  They crackled around her, flashing and falling to snap like static electricity on the carpet.  And where they touched, what had been beige, soft nap, turned black and burnt.

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From Chapter Twenty

“I don’t want to go to school,” William whispered.

Deborah’s eyes moved to him.  “I don’t want you out there either, but the state has different ideas.  You don’t like private school, and home-schooling doesn’t teach you to get along with others.  That leaves public school, much as I don’t like it.  So, tough.  For both of us.”

William sat straight up, suddenly erect out of his perpetual slump.  He looked at her directly, both his eyes locked to hers.  And those eyes were changed.  “Tough for them,” he said, his voice deep and full of echoes to her ears.  Deborah gasped, for what had emerged just momentarily within those eyes reached down into her depths and reckoned.  Then it vanished just as quickly.

“What was that?” Tony said, his fork having shifted in his hand from tool to weapon.

Bryce, too, sat stunned, staring at the boy.

Tony crossed himself.

Deborah just sat, her eyes on the boy’s, his on hers.

That night, she had a new nightmare, waking to see a form standing at the foot of her bed—short, broad, black.  Hood was wide awake.  So were the cats.

Then a bang upon the glass slider of the atrium jolted all of them, and Deborah’s head snapped around to see black wings flail against the glass—Regal.  She turned back just in time to see the form turn transparent and slowly disappear, the dog still trained upon the fading image.

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From Chapter Twenty-Two

She flipped through the night’s video records again.  Then she went back in time and checked other nights—nights she remembered and nights where she hadn’t been disturbed.  She checked in order; she checked arbitrarily.  And she began to see a pattern.  Her, Bryce, then Tony, one after the other, always in that order, and the order was most hated to least hated.

A chill ran through her.  Then she got mad.  What was this boy?  What drove him?

Sherry’s words came back to her: “Uniquely evil.”

“There is no evil.  There’s only man’s evil,” Deborah hissed, speaking to the memory, and Regal arched his neck, curling his head to his chest and crowed once, twice, three times.  Then Deborah did something she swore she’d never do again—she moved her mind, opening up the gate the other way.

Instantly, William sat up, wide awake, his eyes searching wildly.  Deborah saw fear.

So he could feel, but he couldn’t see. And it was Deborah’s bet that the conscious William had no idea what the unconscious William did.  The boy was not in touch with what she guessed about him, nor to the forces working inside to drive him.  And that put Deborah in a quandary.

Letting go, she watched his fear subside.  But he didn’t sleep.  Instead, he just sat there stirring the coverlet with his fingers, his eyes watching the room about him.  Then, he did something that totally surprised Deborah.  He touched the light button beside him that lit the room from dim to bright, then lay over, head first, bottom up, and actually looked underneath the bed.

“He’s afraid.  Just like any normal kid,” she whispered.

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From Chapter Twenty-Eight

It was dark by the time Deborah made it back to the staging area.  Woolsey was there, chewing her out, up one side and down the other.  He put a hand on her shoulder, then, and she stiffened.  “Thanks for the good work, Deb.  Unofficially, I mean.”

Close to tears, she nodded, then, with a gulp, pulled the saddle loose off Myrrh.  “No sign of William?” she whispered.

“No.”

A helicopter, its lights blinding, began to descend, Deborah’s mare rearing back, her eyes wild.  Deborah turned her so her tail was toward it, talking her calm as the machine continued its descent, its chop throwing dust and debris.

The helicopter landed on a flat spot someone had catted clear.  An ambulance, its lights off, pulled close, and Deborah watched as a covered stretcher came out of the ‘copter’s bay.

Sandy had long since brought the truck and trailer, Jim and Tony riding with her.  Deborah loaded the dogs and Myrrh in the slant-ride, then climbed in the back seat with Tony.

“Bryce made it through surgery,” Jim said.  “He’s critical, but alive.”

Deborah nodded, swallowing another gulp of tears.  “Prognosis?”

“His sternum and his ribs are shattered, and his heart is filled with fluid.  It’s bruised up pretty badly where the engine shoved the steering column through the airbag.  He’s got a punctured lung and ruptured spleen, and his kidneys stopped working.  He’s heavily sedated, and they aren’t letting anybody see him, not even his mom who flew in from Denver.”

Deborah closed her eyes, tears streaming down her face, and looked away out the window.

“Here,” Jim said, holding out a sandwich.  “Eat something before you pass out.”