A Kind of Hush explores whether there is a gray area between right and
wrong. The Mackie family is enjoying a June outing at a rugged park near
their Buffalo, New York home when tragedy strikes. One parent survives along
with their teenage daughter and seven-year-old son found hiding in the
woods. Was this a horrendous accident or something more heinous, and if so,
whodunnit and whydunit? A mantle of ambiguity – a kind of hush –
hangs between the survivors like a live grenade without its pin as each one
deals with the circumstances and revelations surrounding the incident.
A Kind of Hush is one of five finalists in the 16th annual National Indie
Excellence Awards contest in the highly competitive mystery category.
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
BUFFALO, NEW YORK. Gabriel Mackie had just celebrated his fourth birthday
the first timehe visited the whisper room, a windowless enclave with lavender walls
brimming with daydreams, obscured from reality. All he knew for certain was that his older brother,
Griff, nicknamed Boo, was gone. His bedroom at the end of the long hallway had been transformed into
a guest room with ecru lace duvets instead of the blue and white pinstriped spreads covering the
twin beds. Vanished were his toy box and New York Yankee American League pennants that had plastered
the walls, replaced by paintings of water lilies and wheat fields. A stray tear trickled down
Gabe’s cheek when he remembered Boo’s curly blonde hair and how he snorted when he
laughed. Silence is deafening and the Mackie household screamed heartbreak.
Tree branches dipped in the wind tossing shadows across the windows
heralding a tempestgathering force. Matt sipped his coffee and thumbed through last
night’s restaurant receipts. Summer, lost in her on own thoughts, mindlessly poured herself a refill with one
hand while twirling a strand of hair with the other. Gabe tiptoed to the kitchen doorway, jumping back
when he heard his mother slam her fist on the counter.
“It’s Willa’s fault Griff is gone,” her voice
stringent and tight. “Tickling him while he sucked ona gumball, for God’s sake. I trusted her to take care of him for
fifteen minutes—fifteen damn minutes—while I picked up Gabe from a birthday party. He
couldn’t find his shoes . . . I would have been home sooner and maybe . . . I love my daughter, but . . . She knew to
call 911 in an emergency . . . Why the hell didn’t she?”
Matt shook his head. “Summer come on . . . you’ve got to quit
blaming her,” his voice rising an octave in frustration. “You’re as responsible as
Summer turned her back to her husband shielding the wounds caused by his
“I shouldn’t have said that,” regret echoed in his
apology. “I’m so sorry . . . Please, we don’t need to be playing this blame game. . . .”
“I guess it’s too much to ask for you to understand what
I’m going through, Matt. What part of my daughter killing our son don’t you get?”
“Honey, you’re overreacting. . . .”
They both turned as Gabe scampered into the room dragging a stuffed
elephant by its trunk.
“Mommy, did Willa find where Boo’s hiding? Quackers and me
wanna play next . . . you count to ten and say ready-or-not, here I come . . . okay?”
About the Author
JoDee Neathery is a firm believer that dreams do come true with the release
of her debut award winning novel, Life in a Box, in July 2017 asking the
question, how much would you sacrifice to hide a secret? A few colorful
characters were plucked off her family tree, encasing their world inside
fictional events to create her literary novel.
The idea for her latest novel, A Kind of Hush, appeared in the middle of
the night with the profile of the young boy and the first few sentences
scratched out on the every-present notepad on the nightstand beside her bed.
“I didn’t know the whole story, but I knew that whatever I wrote
next, this young lad had to play a major role in the narrative and Gabriel
Edward Mackie doesn’t disappoint.”
JoDee was born in Southern California moving to Midland, Texas at the age
of five. Her professional career began in the banking industry moving into
public relations executive recruiting until relocating to East Texas where
she experienced more opportunities to write and enjoys a byline, Back Porch
Musings, a lighthearted view of life in general, in an area newspaper. Her
dream “job” has been chairing and writing minutes and reviews
for the community book club, Bookers, for eighteen years and it was those
members that championed her novel writing journey. “They believed in
me before I did.”
“Great action, well-told, and authentic with all the nuances and
spirit of small town Texas. Don’t miss it.” -Lone Star Literary Life
In this enigmatic follow up to his critically acclaimed debut novel The
Cuts that Cure, Arthur Herbert returns to the Texas-Mexico border with this
chilling mystery set amidst a small town’s bloody loss of
Amoret, Texas, 1982. Life along the border is harsh, but in a world where
cultures work together to carve a living from the desert landscape, Blaine
Beckett lives a life of isolation. A transplanted Boston intellectual, for
twenty years locals have viewed him as a snob, a misanthrope, an outsider.
He seems content to stand apart until one night when he vanishes into thin
air amid signs of foul play.
Noah Grady, the town doctor, is a charming and popular good ol’ boy.
He’s also a keeper of secrets, both the town’s and his own. He
watches from afar as the mystery of Blaine’s disappearance unravels
and rumors fly. Were the incipient cartels responsible? Was it a local with
a grudge? Or did Blaine himself orchestrate his own disappearance? Then the
unthinkable happens, and Noah begins to realize he’s considered a
Paced like a lit fuse and full of dizzying plot twists, The Bones of Amoret
is a riveting whodunit that will keep you guessing all the way to its
About the Author
Arthur Herbert was born and raised in small town Texas. He worked on
offshore oil rigs, as a bartender, a landscaper at a trailer park, and as a
social worker before going to medical school. For the last eighteen years,
he’s worked as a trauma and burn surgeon, operating on all ages of
injured patients. He continues to run a thriving practice in New Orleans
where he lives with his wife Amy and their dogs.
After encountering a brief power outage at work, college student Sara
Donovan might be allowing her imagination to run wild. The main vault in the
Carlton Museum holds the Fire and Ice Exhibit, a collection of rare gems,
including the Star of Midnight, a 175-carat diamond. Although all the stones
are accounted for, Sara suspects the Star of Midnight was stolen and
replaced with a fake.
While conducting her own investigation, what Sara uncovers is beyond even
her wildest imagination: a coded message, papers with strange characters,
and a mysterious set of numbers carved into an office wall. Despite
dismissive historians and other experts, she is certain these clues point to
a mysterious centuries-old legend.
Unfortunately, her colorful history of usually being right, but always
being wrong, means she must solve the mystery to prove her theory.
About the Author
B.T. Polcari is a graduate of Rutgers College of Rutgers University, an
award-winning mystery author, and a proud father of two wonderful children.
He’s a champion of rescue pups (Mauzzy is a rescue), craves watching
football and basketball, and, of course, loves reading mysteries. Among his
favorite authors are D.P. Lyle, Robert B. Parker, and Michael Connelly. He
is also an unapologetic fantasy football addict. He lives with his wife in
scenic Chattanooga, Tennessee.
When Violet Cruz accused U.S. Representative Alan Barclay of being
“the spawn of a Martian whore” and took a shot at him, everyone
agreed that she was delusional. It was just another conspiracy theory in
Washington, DC, where such bizarre claims had become all too common.
Tiring of the media harassing the family, however, Cruz’s cousin
brought the case to Private Investigator Rebecca Marte. She figured that the
public was probably right. Rebecca was, however, willing to give the case
another look as Cruz’s sudden, total break from reality without any
apparent cause was almost as strange as her beliefs.
With his background in psychology, working with Sam “Doc” Price
made sense to Rebecca and she welcomed him as a consultant. But soon, the
two, who had worked so well in the past, found themselves at each
other’s throats. She dropped him from the investigation, but with his
“dog with a bone” determination, Doc went on alone.
Unfortunately, the now-divided team was going after an adversary more
cunning and more ruthless than any they’ve faced before. If
they’d realized the odds of their survival apart, they would have
found a way to put their differences aside before it was too late.
There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who
and then there are those who turn one into the other.
Wednesday, April 6
Morning, The National Mall, Washington, DC
“At least you didn’t have to take a bullet for the
Renee Portnell heard the words but made no attempt to find their meaning in
the fog of pain that filled her mind. Rather, she watched in numbed
disbelief as a trickle of blood inched closer to a Washington Senators
baseball cap that sat on the sidewalk. She had to be ten yards away sitting
on a park bench and the sun was just beginning to crest the buildings
ringing the National Mall, but with a half-dozen Washington DC Metropolitan
Police Department cars now parked on the grass, all with their headlights
blazing, she could move another ten and the horror of the scene
Portnell slowly turned toward the sound of the voice beside her, an MPD
officer, his name already forgotten. “What?”
“The guy? I heard he was a senator or something. Figured you’d
have to take a bullet for him if it came to that.”
“U.S. Representative Alan Barclay,” said Portnell, every word
drawn out like she was from the deep south rather than Connecticut.
“Although, that’s Secret Service, not private protection
Portnell shook her head to clear it, each of her senses slowly returning to
the here and now, each becoming preternaturally acute for an instant before
succumbing to the next. She heard the murmur of voices filled with urgency
and authority all around. She registered the acrid smell of car exhaust
mixing with the sickly-sweet of cherry blossoms that had reached their peak
the week before. She tasted gunpowder on her tongue, her saliva no match for
its bitterness. But when her gaze fell on the woman lying on the sidewalk,
the round-robin of sensations ended. She couldn’t pull her eyes away.
And all the while she wondered, how could Barclay’s ball cap have
landed so close to the woman and so far from him?
The police and paramedics had already moved away from the female. Portnell
wasn’t surprised. She’d always been an excellent shot and any of
the four rounds she’d squeezed off could have been fatal. The only
difference between them and the thousand she’d fired before today was
that the previous ones had only penetrated paper. These last four had found
flesh and bone, blood and muscle. As she watched, the woman’s blood
inched ever closer to the cap.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this, Portnell knew. In her eight years
with the military police, she had never fired her sidearm in the line of
duty. And when she had retired, her recruitment into the private sector had
emphasized the fact that female body guards were often instrumental in
de-escalating violence. But when the threat is shooting at your client,
gender is not going to stop the onslaught. Only a bullet could.
“Renee, look at me.” The drop in his volume pulled
Portnell’s eyes to the officer’s face. “From what I hear,
you got nothing to worry about. The shooting was righteous. She shot first
and you have the right to protect yourself and others from deadly force.
Only question seems to be, she get off two shots or three?”
Portnell thought it could have been more. Hadn’t she stared in
disbelief for seconds? Hadn’t she fumbled with her firearm when
drawing it from her shoulder holster? The only thing that had gone smoothly
was the Weaver stance-aim-fire sequence, a routine that was burned into her
muscle memory from those thousand practice shots at targets that she
“Not that you need insurance, but she was obviously a wacko,”
said the officer. “I mean, what the hell was it she said?”
Portnell stared at the man’s face, wondering how many times she was
going to have to repeat those words? Of course, it wasn’t like
she’d ever forget them. “When she first approached, she said,
‘You must find it hard to represent the folks back
There was nothing particularly memorable in that part of her statement, but
her voice was so melodic, almost childlike. Perhaps that was why, when
Portnell started forward to ask the woman to move on, Barclay had given her
“the signal”—a hand held low at his side, palm facing
backward. Of course, the woman’s physical appearance may have played a
part in his decision as well. Although Barclay had a reputation as a family
man, even he could dream and the woman was the stuff of men’s
dreams—a dark, exotic beauty in a pure white dress.
“Then, she said, ‘I mean, it’s gotta be tough for the
spawn of a Martian whore like you.’”
“Spawn of a Martian whore,” said the MPD officer, chuckling and
shaking his head. “Where the heck do these kooks get this crap? I
mean, you knew the guy better than me. There’s no truth to her words,
right?” The officer laughed again like it was the funniest thing
he’d ever heard. Portnell just stared.
She suspected that it was the incongruity of the hate in the woman’s
words and the lilting tone that had carried them to her ears that had caused
her hesitation. She remembered thinking, could this be real? She knew, of
course, that this might happen one day. But in her mind’s eye, it was
always the silhouette of a crazed man. It was the practice target of the
firing range given life.
But while her response had been hesitant, the woman hadn’t
vacillated. A gun materialized in her hand where moments before there had
been none. The crack of her first shot brought Portnell out of her trance.
She reached for her handgun, but it caught for an instant on her jacket. The
woman fired again. Portnell saw Barclay spin to the ground out of the corner
of her eye, perhaps as a defensive reaction, but probably from the impact of
the round. His cap flew from his head, which now explained where it had
landed on the sidewalk.
Her handgun came free and from that instant on, she no longer needed to
think. Each of her four shots produced a new bloom of red on the
woman’s simple white dress. But unlike Barclay, she stayed upright, as
if she was one of the paper targets hung from the carrier at the firing
range. Finally, the woman crumpled to the ground.
“Two,” said Portnell, the words indistinct in her ears.
“She fired twice.”
The officer didn’t say anything, but Portnell could hear him moving.
After a moment, the man crouched down in her line of sight. Her vision
dimmed and she collapsed to her back on the bench. The officer yelled,
“Get a paramedic over here. She’s going into shock.” It
sounded like he was twenty yards away, not standing over her.
Lying down helped, and Portnell’s vision and hearing cleared a bit.
She rolled to her side, watching as the trickle of crimson reached the bill
of the baseball cap. Now, the darkening fabric marked the slow march of the
woman’s blood. She stared at the woman’s face. Once, it had
reflected an energy to match her voice, but now, it looked more like frozen
stone, her naturally dark complexion faded from the loss of blood. Only her
eyes seemed to show signs of the person she had been; they twinkled with an
inner light, although Portnell knew that was impossible.
Another man appeared in her line of sight. “Stay with me,
ma’am.” He turned away. “Get that stretcher over here.
It was help, and Portnell thought she should feel relieved. She
didn’t. She knew no one could help her with what she needed
most—getting the image of the beautiful woman in white with the
melodic voice out of her mind forever.
About the Author
Bruce Perrin has been writing for more than 25 years, although you will
find much of that work in professional technical journals or conference
proceedings. But after completing a PhD in Industrial/Organization
Psychology and spending a number of years in the research and development of
advanced learning technology with a major aerospace company, he’s now
applying his background to writing. Not surprisingly, most of his work falls
in the techno-thriller, mystery, and hard science fiction genres, examining
where technology and psychology meet, now and in the future.
In addition to pounding the keyboard, Bruce likes to tinker with home
automation and is an avid hiker, logging nearly 2,500 miles a year in the
first eight years of Fitbit ownership. When he is not on the trails, he
lives with his wife in Aurora, CO. For a closer look at his writing life,
book reviews, and progress on his upcoming works, please join him at
Young Reader, Children’s Book, Middle Grade, Mystery, Adventure
Publisher: Annie Tillery Mysteries
What can possibly happen when a crime happens under the very noses of a group of very savvy eighth graders at St. BeSillius’ Catholic School on St. Frederick’s Island? When the money they raised to buy toys for children in homeless shelters in near-by NYC is stolen, the Buccaneers, as they call themselves are outraged. Despite warnings from Father Felix and Sr. Jo, Sprocket, the leader of the Buccaneers, and her determined buddies set out to follow the clues, run down the thief, and get those toys for the homeless kids.
When their clubhouse is burned down, and a threatening letter is sent to the local newspaper, The Foghorn, owned and operated by Sprocket’s mother, the Buccaneers are even more determined to unravel the plot against them. A mysterious island once owned by the pirate, Jon Buccleigh and a labyrinthine cave serve as the setting for this skullduggery. A Native American healer, her community, and a group of the beach people conspire with the Buccaneers to get that money back.
You will be laughing at some of the Buccaneers’ antics and gasping at what those brave eighth-graders face to solve the mystery. The story is rich with colorful and engaging characters as well as the flavor of post-war America in 1947. An altogether fun and satisfying read.
ON THE MOVE
How do those turtles do it? Pull their heads into their bodies? Here comes Sr. JoAnn. My head stubbornly remained on top of my neck.
If you think it’s easy writing a note to the kid in the seat next to you when the rattling of Sr. JoAnn’s rosary is announcing her slow walk down my aisle at this moment, you’ve never been to Catholic school. The room is silent. You can hear pen nibs scratching across the pages of our black and white composition books, leaving a trail of ink blots.
Pen nibs, you say. Ink blots? You won’t believe this about the ink and the inkwell. Will you? We all learned to master a form of writing called the Palmer method. This is just another aspect of toughening the backbone here at St. BeSillius’s. As I look at my permanently stained right middle finger, I wonder if I will be done in by something lurking in the ink and become St. Sprocket, patron saint of calligraphy.
The smell of chalk and old tempera paints barely covers the tinge of pine-scented urine coming from the old radiators. My mom went to this school and tells the story of kids leaning their wet behinds against the radiators to let their underwear dry if they had an accident. Going to the bathroom in those days was a privilege reserved for the Pope. Thank God things have changed, and St. BeSillius has hired a nurse, and given her an office where this kind of thing could be taken care of.
A floorboard squeaks. I hear the faint clink of keys as if Sr. has reached into the stygian depths of her pocket for something. I slide my ruler over the words I’ve just written and peer cautiously from the side of my vision trying to locate Sr. JoAnn. My stomach bunches. She is reading Eddie O’Malley’s entire page. Eddie’s not one of us, so there is nothing out of the ordinary to see in his notebook.
My page is full of writing, but not what I think I want Sister to see. So far, I’ve jotted a list: LOOK FOR CLUES, including the narvex, the sacristy, the side entrance, the choir loft, and the bushes around the church. I’ve signed it, Sprocket.
Sprocket? Is that a Christian name? Of course not, silly reader. We all have code names to protect the guilty. We are the Buccaneers of St. BeSillius School, a secret society dedicated to solving the mysteries and misdeeds of our little parish school and the island where it’s located.
Uh-oh. Here she comes. If I rip the page out and crumple it, she’ll just grab it. And, I’ll have to explain why there’s nothing on the page, in longhand mind you, about the characteristics that would have made George Washington a good Catholic, if only he had known better.
George was an Anglican having once been a colonial loyal to the King of England, also a George. But that’s another story.
Eddie, not the sharpest pencil in the box, is getting the Spanish Inquisition treatment about his lack of inspiration on the topic. I wonder if the nuns get a special course in interrogation techniques.
Eddie, I love him dearly, is buying me time. Could I quietly turn the page and jot a quick sentence or two? I pick up the notebook and turn the page, knocking a pen full of ink onto the floor along with the ink well. As you can imagine, this was not a silent maneuver. Sr. JoAnn, Eddie and the whole class look at me. I feel my face burn. I get up to clean the mess and knock the composition book on the floor with my note showing plainly on top. Sister reaches for it. I’M DEAD!
The fire drill siren shrieks. Sister turns to move the class to the fire exit, and I kick the composition book under the desk. It obliges me, closing with a snap.
“I’ll clean this later, Sister.” I smile.
“And I will be checking your essay.” She smiles back.
“Yes, Sister,” I say, noting that the proverbial glove his been tossed onto the floor like they did in those ancient duels. I file past her.
Are you wondering why a bunch of Catholic school kids are searching for clues in what looks like a church and the yard around it?
Let me digress for a bit and fill you in on some details about why we are listing clues and what all this skullduggery (Great word, isn’t it?) is about.
Well, before I fill you in on what happened when we found those clues, let me explain who we are. We call ourselves The Secret Crime-Stoppers of Sts. Christopher and Michael, but I wanted a shorter title like Buccaneers of St. BeSillius. I thought calling on both St. Christopher and St. Michael was pushing the envelope of sponsorship. And who even knows who St. BeSillius is? So, just think of us as the Buccaneers.
For the past year, our class has been raising money for a class trip to visit seven churches on the mainland and distribute toys to the children’s day care centers in those parishes. We did bake sales, car washes, leaf-raking, snow shoveling. We cleaned attics for old ladies, cut lawns and pulled weeds. Some ill-informed parents even let us do fence-painting. Don’t worry! Those shrubs will come back in a year or two.
A whole year of those earnings went into the fund. We kept it in the vestry. That’s the room behind the altar in the church where the priest keeps his vestments. Get it? Vestry, vestments? The box with the money disappeared the day Father Felix was supposed to open a bank account for us. We never got the money back, never found out who did it, and we’re pi….. Whoops! Sorry. I’m just angry. Not mad. Sister Priscilla said that mad means crazy. Well, she hasn’t been paying attention to her students.
Anyway, even though the sisters and priests said we should offer it up to God. I’m not sure what that means, the money or the cursing we did. And, we should learn a lesson. Next time lock it up! And where were we supposed to lock it up? It was in the vestry! With Father Felix, the parish priest!
This didn’t go down too well with some of us, and one night last summer at our club house which is just a shack on the beach, we decided to form our own little PI group, that’s Private Investigator. We voted on and accepted our official title, Buccaneers of St.Besillius. Look. You can’t beat our creativity in naming the group. We even researched St. BS. She’s the patron saint of mimes.
As we gathered around the fire, we wrote up a charter including the following:
· Each member is sworn to secrecy, under pain of . . .what? Oh, I don’t know.
· All clues are to be shared by everyone.
· All communications would be done using our code names. Mine is Sprocket.
· Our meeting place would be the old fishing shack on the beach.
We made a list of our code names.
Lily code name Sprocket, all around smarty, leader, that’s me.
Ryan: code name Bletch, general genius.
Frank: code name Wingnut, mechanical genius, and a bit dippy.
Leon: code name Snap Shackle, math genius, can put two and two together.
Amalie: code name Ratchet, electronic surveillance, or just plain snoop, meaning she can use a camera.
And so, the story begins.
About the Author
Linda Maria Frank, retired from a career teaching science, including forensic science, resides on Long Island and is currently writing the Annie Tillery Mysteries, as well as The Buccaneers of St. Frederick Island. She also produces The Writer’s Dream, her local access TV show, seen on YouTube. Frank is active in LI Authors Group, LI Sisters in Crime, LI Children’s Writers and Illustrators, and Mystery Writers of America.
Linda does lectures on Topics on Forensic Science at libraries, universities, clubs and other venues. She is currently writing the next Buccaneers book.