Release Date: Aug 9, 2021
Her dead father once asked, “What did you do to make God sad, Nattie?”
Natalie McMasters is a twentysomething college student who just wants to get on with her life, and she’s got to wonder. Her dear friend lies dead and the crazed killer responsible now has Nattie on his short list. Her only choice? Cancel him before he cancels her!
Nattie assembles an unlikely squad to find the killer: her wife Lupe, her husband Danny, an aging FBI agent and an even more ancient Tai Chi master. Jointly and separately, they embark on a totally lit road trip across the Old South, meeting danger and death at every turn. Unexpected help is provided by a voice from the grave. But her adversary has a badass squad too, and friends and loved ones fall along the way.
Naked and afraid in a primeval swamp, Nattie must confront her greatest enemy one last time. How will she ever get the W?
My eyes track the reverend as he wends his way among the scattered gravestones, making for the gravel road where the cars are parked. I notice a figure standing between two of the vehicles, observing our gathering from afar. It’s a man, I think, wearing dark hoodie against the rain. He’s relatively short and broad; his form is eerily familiar.
I suddenly know who it must be… “It’s him!” I holler. “The Marquis! He’s here!”
I take off like a bat out of hell, and Danny follows in a sec. It doesn’t take long before he’s abreast, then ahead of me. Our stan dashes across the road and vaults the low stone wall on the other side, artfully dodging among the tomb stones.
Try as I will, there’s no way I can keep up with a Marine. Danny reaches the road five yards ahead of me, vaulting the wall without stopping, pursuing the Marquis (it has to be him!) into the graveyard on the other side. As I clamber over the wall, Danny is now a good 50 feet away. Damn it! It’s begun raining harder, and I’ve totally lost sight of the Marquis! I have to struggle now, just to keep Danny in view. He’s making for a group of trees about fifty yards ahead in the center of the cemetery—the Marquis must have gone in there. Shit! I’ll lose both of them for sure in those woods! Of course, Danny goes in. I have no choice—I just keep running towards the spot where I last saw him, hoping to pick up his trail again.
Reaching the trees, I hear crashing ahead, followed by shouts. Small limbs whip across my face, lighting my skin on fire as I push my way through the brush; I have to slow my pace to avoid going down because I’m sliding on the damp leaves, vines snatching at my feet. Up ahead, it’s a little brighter. I run into a small clearing where Danny is on the ground, his hand on his throat, struggling to rise. WTF happened?
There’s crashing in the woods ahead of me, but the deadening effect of the thick brush makes it impossible to know exactly where. Conflicting choices tear at me—I want to continue chasing the Marquis, but Danny is still down, fighting for breath. Has that motherfucker seriously hurt him? Danny’s face is red and bruised, his mouth agape, his breath a rattling wheeze. I reach down and offer him a hand up, but he waves me off.
“Let…me…get…my…wind,” he croaks.
It’s a couple of minutes before he can speak coherently. By that time, the crashing in the brush has subsided—the Marquis is long gone.
About The Author
Thomas A. Burns Jr. writes the Natalie McMasters Mysteries from the small town of Wendell, North Carolina, where he lives with his wife and son, four cats and a Cardigan Welsh Corgi. He was born and grew up in New Jersey, attended Xavier High School in Manhattan, earned B.S degrees in Zoology and Microbiology at Michigan State University and a M.S. in Microbiology at North Carolina State University. As a kid, Tom started reading mysteries with the Hardy Boys, Ken Holt and Rick Brant, then graduated to the classic stories by authors such as A. Conan Doyle, Dorothy Sayers, John Dickson Carr, Erle Stanley Gardner and Rex Stout, to name a few. Tom has written fiction as a hobby all of his life, starting with Man from U.N.C.L.E. stories in marble-backed copybooks in grade school. He built a career as technical, science and medical writer and editor for nearly thirty years in industry and government. Now that he’s a full time novelist, he’s excited to publish his own mystery series, as well as to write stories about his second most favorite detective, Sherlock Holmes. His Holmes story, The Camberwell Poisoner, recently appeared in the March – June issue of The Strand Magazine. Tom has also written a Lovecraftian horror novel, The Legacy of the Unborn, under the pen name of Silas K. Henderson‒a sequel to H.P. Lovecraft’s masterpiece At the Mountains of Madness.