Linda L Rucker

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                       Below are excerpts from my books.
                Now available
                Dark Ridge

     Molly stared up through the leafless branches of the Black Gum tree at the bloated, orange harvest moon. She could feel her life ebbing slowly, but surely, out of her body, as she lay on the cold, frost-covered ground. Her body had numbed itself to the pain, so when the steel-toed boot connected yet again with her head, she felt nothing.
      As if in a dream she heard a voice say harshly, "Stupid whore," and then heard, more than felt another viscous kick to her head. "Come on Pete, shes dead!" Another voice, tinged with fear spoke out of the darkness.
     "She aint dead! I can still see her breath." She recognized that harsh voice.
     "Well if she ain't she will be." This voice was fearful and getting more so, and Molly tried to put a face to it.
      Her memory was out there somewhere with her mind. If she tried to remember the names, the feelings might return and if the feelings returned, then she surely would die. Her wounds were deadly serious; she knew it.
      "Come on Pete, its too cold out here. She ain't gonna make it, and there ain't no way nobody saw us with her. Besides who's gonna miss this bitch?" The man with the fearful voice spoke in an urgent tone.
      "Well, maybe you're right. She is gonna die for sure. I'll see to that." Someone knelt down beside Molly and grabbed her face, jerking her head around and staring into her dull eyes. "You are a whore and this is just what you deserve Molly Matthews. If you hadn't a said you was gonna tell your daddy, you might a made it out a here in one piece."
      "What are you gonna do, Pete?" The voice, still fearful spoke again.
      Molly's eyes didn't blink; they only stared up at the moon. "She's dying, let's go."
      Molly felt the knife as it sliced across her throat. Felt it as no more than a slight pressure. Her brain refused to admit the pain, keeping it at bay, so as to keep her mind intact. She felt the warmth of her blood as it oozed out of the wound at her throat. She would die here. This was to be her grave for all time: up here on the backside of Dark Ridge.

Available Now 

"What the Heart Wants"

     Letty looked over at the two boxes and sighed. There was no way around it, they had to go to the attic. She shivered. She hated that attic, always had. Ever since she was a child, she’d been afraid of it, thanks to JJ. He had her convinced that there were ghosts up there; ghosts of runaway slaves. “Well this is just plain silly,” Letty spoke to the boxes. “Here I am forty-five years old and I’m still scared of that blasted attic” The boxes sat in mute silence, mocking her. “Well, you would be too, if all you were ever told about the place was that it was haunted and that the ghosts of runaway slaves were just waiting to snatch up some silly little white girl.”
      No answer. Letty heaved an exaggerated sigh and kicked one of the boxes. “This is all your fault. If you hadn’t come today, I could have had Lurlene go up there with me. But no, you had to show up today of all days, when I’m here alone.” She sat down on the sofa and began biting her pinky nail. “I could just leave you here till tomorrow, you know.” No, she couldn’t. The party was tonight and she couldn’t have the two boxes cluttering up her living room. “All right, to the attic with you then, but I’m taking a flashlight.” Letty grimaced as she bent down and picked up one of the heavy boxes. “Geez, they could have split this stuff up into more than two boxes, for Pete’s sake,” she said between breaths.
      It was a struggle, but she managed to get the box up the two flights of stairs. Huffing and puffing, she dropped it in front of the attic door and stood there, her head cocked to one side as she listened for any sound coming from behind the closed door. “Oh hell, let’s just get this over with, shall we?” With a less than steady hand, Letty reached out and turned the knob, disappointed that it twisted easily in her hand. Using her foot, she nudged the door open and reached inside, feeling around for the light switch. With a sigh of relief, she flipped the switch and then groaned. The attic had four lights, and all four of them had forty watt bulbs in them. The deep shadows of the farther recesses of the attic remained in darkness.
      Steeping through the door Letty surveyed the attic, peering into the gloomy interior. Satisfied that she was alone, she turned and grabbed the box. When she turned back around, she emitted a squeak of fright. One of the bulbs had apparently burned out: the one in the middle, of course.
     “Shoot,” she said, sitting the box on the floor. She thumbed the flashlight switch and was dismayed to see nothing.
     “Blast it all! The batteries are dead.” She stood shaking the flashlight and striking it against her palm, but to no avail. “Well I’m not going back downstairs for batteries. This is just silly. There’s nothing up here but me and some old junk. There's nothing to hurt me, nothing to scare me.”
      With new determination, Letty picked up the box and began to walk slowly toward the center of the huge room. Halfway there she stopped, squinting into the darkness. Was that a person standing over there by that column? She felt her pulse begin to race and her breathing became shallow. She took a tentative step closer and stopped dead in her tracks. It was a person.
      Sweat popped out on her forehead, her hands began shaking. “Who--- who’s there?” No answer, just the wind whispering over the roof. Letty sat the box down and looked frantically around for a weapon, although if it was truly a ghost, she doubted very much that a weapon would do her any good.
      She saw one of JJ’s old bats leaning against the column and snatched it up, holding it in front of her. “Now!” she cried triumphantly, “I said, who’s there?” The shadowy form held its peace, and Letty began inching forward. She was a bit braver with the ball bat in her hand. Besides, she thought, this is my attic.
      As she advanced slowly on the person standing in the shadows, a loud bam behind her caused her to scream. Spinning around, bat raised, she searched the near darkness for whoever had slammed the door. There was no one there.
      Turning quickly back, she took a step forward and began to literally zoom across the empty space between her and the intruder. She screamed, brandishing the bat at the shadowy figure as it drew nearer. And then she collided with her intruder. Screaming in terror, Letty rolled away, kicking and swinging the bat, but nothing happened. She sat still and cocked her head, listening for moans of pain from the other person. Hearing nothing, she got to her feet.
      The shadowy form lay still and silent on the floor before her. With her toe, she nudged the still figure, and was surprised to find it solid and hard. "What on earth?” hunkering down, Letty reached out and poked the form with her finger, then shook her head, smiling. The smile quickly became a laugh that turned into giggles. Letty laughed till tears ran down her face and her breath came in hiccupping gasps.
      Her intruder was her mothers old dressmaker form! Still laughing, Letty grabbed up the box and deposited it on the floor by the column, then picked up the dressmaker manikin and stood it next to the box.
      At the door, she switched off the light and pulled the door shut behind her and didn’t hear the sound of quiet laughter masked by the closing door.


Coming Soon
Caney Creek :

The sequel to Dark Ridge


      The old cliché, the silence was deafening, came to Amos’ mind as the wind died. It didn’t dwindle gradually, it simply died: abruptly. All was still, silent. Molly looked at Amos, her eyes questioning. “Is it over?” she asked him, getting to her feet.
      Amos shook his head. “I don’t think so. It’s too quiet.” He opened the back door and looked out. The sky was black: a starless, airless void. The air weighed down upon him like someone had covered his shoulders with a wet, burlap sack; heavy, suffocating. “We better see if we can find some shelter,” he said quietly, calmly.
     “What?” Molly’s eyes were round. “Why?”
     “I think we’re in for a tornado.” The statement sent a chill of fear spiraling down Molly’s spine.
     “A tornado?” Her voice was a bare whisper and Amos nodded. His calmness, rather than reassuring Molly, terrified her. “Where do we go?” she asked, her voice rising in fear.
     “We’ll go to the courthouse. There’s a basement over there. Go get your shoes.” She nodded. “Molly, hurry.”
      Amos ran to his room and pulled a shirt from the closet. Throwing it on, he grabbed his shoes and socks, and his gun belt, and then hurried into the hall, meeting Molly on her way out her bedroom door. He grabbed her hand and together they ran for the car.
      Amos drove through the deserted streets, and the wind began to howl. As the lightening flashed, Molly could see the trees whipping furiously, twisting in a macabre dance of fury.
      As they passed the diner, Amos saw lights and slammed on the brakes. Molly was thrown forward, nearly smacking her head on the windshield. “What are you doing, Daddy?” Her eyes were terrified. “We got a hurry. It’s coming.”
     “Ellie’s in there,” Amos jumped from the car and sprinted to the door. With his fists he pounded on the door calling Ellie’s name. His cries grabbed and tossed on the wind. In frustration, Amos drew his fist back and slammed it into the glass. The explosion and the ensuing tinkle of the showering glass were lost to the wind.
     Ellie hurried from the back room, her eyes wide. “Amos, what are you doing here?”
     “Let’s go, Ellie. Hurry.” He grabbed her hand and dragged her behind him as he sprinted for the car. Opening the door, he shoved Ellie inside, and then dove into the driver’s seat. Stomping on the gas, the car lurched forward, tires spinning wildly, seeking purchase on the wet pavement. Wind buffeted the car and Molly stifled a scream as a sign fell across the street in front of them. Amos didn’t even slow down and the car jostled and bounced over sign. The wind began to scream and Amos wrestled the steering wheel, fighting to maintain control of the car. Finally they reached the courthouse and Amos jumped from the car.
      Dragging Ellie and Molly behind him he raced up the steps and fumbled for his keys. His heart lurched as he realized he’d left them behind. Cursing, he began to kick the door, and then hit it with his shoulder, but the heavy oak door refused to give.
      Around them the storm roared it’s fury and when lightening lit up the sky, Molly screamed. Grabbing Amos’s arm she pointed. Before the light faded, the funnel cloud could be seen snaking it’s way toward them.
     “Daddy, we got to get inside,” Molly’s words were caught by the wind and tossed aside.
     Amos mouthed, “What?” and she tried to repeat it, but the howling of the wind was intensifying, and he had to grab both women to keep them from being blown down.
      In desperation, Amos ran, dragging the two women with him to the side of courthouse, out of the buffeting wind. As he looked, the trees were twisting like tops, their branches dusting the ground.
      Amos spied a basement window and kicked it out. It was small, but he was certain they could squeeze through.
     “Climb in there,” he said, shoving Molly toward the window. She dove for the opening, wriggling through and falling to the floor below. Next Ellie shimmied inside and also dropped to the floor. When it was his turn, Amos took a deep breath and sitting down began to wriggle in, feet first. He was only halfway in, when the wind began to roar like a runaway locomotive and he could feel himself being dragged back out.
      Ellie screamed and grabbed one of Amos’ dangling legs, motioning for Molly to get the other. Together, the two women held on in a deadly game of tug o’ war.
      The wind howled and screamed and Amos felt as though he were being ripped apart. He dared open his eyes and over his head he saw the swirling remnants of a house flying by. He shut his eyes and began to pray.
      Around him, bricks from the courthouse rained down and Amos shielded his head as best he could. He felt an intense pain shoot through his left arm as a brick smashed into it and he bit back a scream.
      The pressure nearly caused his head to explode and Amos yelped in terror and pain, as bricks and debris pelted his helpless body. He could feel himself being pulled apart and he felt the women losing their grip on his legs. He was going to die.
      His life flashed before him and he had a brief moment of amazement that all the stories he’d heard were true. You did have that life flash, just before death.
      He saw Mary’s face, sweet and smiling, her blue eyes soft and sad. He saw his children and his life with Ethel and he saw what might have been: Ellie standing beside him, taking her vows. He saw Molly, her baby in her arms and he felt a pang of regret and sorrow so intense, that he sobbed. He cried for all the things that were and all the things that could have been.
      Through the ringing in his ears, he could hear someone calling his name. With a supreme effort he replied hoarsely, “I’m okay. I think.” And he was. He was alive and that was okay with him.