Monday, April 2, 2018

Unedited FIRST ending to Echo. Never published. Probably a mistake to post, but here you go.

So... This is the ending to Echo that I wrote and hated before I re-wrote it with exploding trucks and things.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to post this, because a lot of people haven't read Echo yet, and this may contain spoilers, even though it's not the real ending.  So it's with conflicted emotions that I present you, the unedited FIRST ending to Echo.

When Lacie had the cab let her off at the turn off Simon had turned onto, she swiped her credit card and got out of the car, breathing through her fear.  She could turn around now and go back to the hotel, and only be seventy five dollars in the hole.  That’s totally what she should do.  She had no plan.  No skills.
But she had determination.  And that would have to get her through.
At least she’d worn tennis shoes.
As she watched the taxi drive off, her only way back to something that made sense, Lacie turned to the dirt drive in front of her.  It was little more than a driveway, leading into the woods.  Every horror movie she’d ever seen flitted through her mind, and she told herself this was real.  There wasn’t a boogey man up there.
Except she knew better.  Whoever had targeted her and put her out like a cattle call for stalkers and rapists was up there.  And that couldn’t be much better.
She started walking, forcing one foot in front of the other, clutching her cell phone in her pocket, like a lifeline.  She probably should have called the cops.  Except Simon probably hadn’t done that, and it would mess up his plan.
Her steps faltered.  She was messing up Simon’s plan.
No.  She was helping him.
Lacie walked up on two vehicles parked off to the side of the road in a small clearing.  Simon’s rental was there, and another car.  A newish model VW Beetle.  Maybe his sister’s?
A renewed sense of confidence she was on the right track lifted her spirits.  Or maybe it was the fresh air.  She didn’t know, maybe she’d just gotten really good at this compartmentalism thing.  But she felt a sudden lightness in her step telling her she was on the right track.
Finally.  Some sense of resolution.
Until suddenly, there wasn’t.
Footsteps to her left, off in the woods, tracked her.  For every step she took, a heavier, more lumbering one matched her.  She stopped, but the steps kept on, coming closer.
When he man revealed himself, Lacie screamed.  He was no man.

He was a demon.
As he advanced on her, her limbs turned to jelly, and Lacie was pretty sure she might have wet herself.  But the fight or flight reflexes took over, mercifully, and she ran.

Chapter Twenty six
Simon found the house with little trouble.  It looked ramshackle, but he of all people knew looks could be deceiving.  He watched from the tree-line for a while until he saw some movement in one of the front windows.  Dumping his bag on the ground, he pulled out his long-range radio and called Ryan.
“We’re about ten minutes out, maybe fifteen.”
“Hurry.  I’ve found the house.  Don’t have a count, yet.”
“Copy that, Sarge.”
He dropped the radio and carefully, he squatted and ran, his gun ready to fire, held at his side.
Back against the house, he risked a look inside.
Quinten was tied to a chair, unconscious and bleeding from his face.  Somebody had used him as a punching bag.  His lack of consciousness was alarming, because to Simon’s knowledge, he’d never been knocked out before, and his ability to take punches rivaled anybody he’d ever seen.  But he wasn’t typically tied up either.  Bonnie had said he sounded drunk, so maybe he was drugged.  Either way, it was horrifying.
Simon looked for wires around the window, expecting to find some sort of alarm system, but there were none.  Still, with the level of technological advancements this guy had used with the StrongArm thing, Simon expected some sort of motion sensors or something protecting the property.  He left the window, edging along the perimeter to peer in others.
All were empty except one.  A room, which was sort of a bedroom, except everything was chillingly covered in washable vinyl, with a computer station set up in one corner, and a shower in another.  Simon recognized it for what it was.  A clean room.  For killing.
And his sister was in there.
But she wasn’t alone.  Jonas Prestley was in a swivel office chair, looking at something on the computer, an image of the road Simon had skirted on his way up here.  So there was surveillance on the property, but apparently, Simon had missed it.
Thank God for small favors.
Bonnie appeared to be unharmed, and pissed off, which was good.  Simon would go back and get Quinten, and they would kick this guy’s ass.  It appeared he was here alone.  So, if he could get Quinten conscious, this would be a piece of cake.
Slinking back to the other window, Simon edged it open and stepped inside.  Using his knife, he sliced through Quinten’s bindings, then went around to the front of him, crouching between his legs.
“Quinten,” he whispered, slapping his blood-slick cheek.  “Wake up.  Val’s gonna kill me if you get your nose broken again.”
His eyes fluttered open, but focused on something directly behind Simon, just as Simon heard the loud click in the silent room of a gun cocking near his temple.  Ever so slowly, he turned his head to look down the barrel of a gun being held by his sister, Bonnie.
Her eyes were wide and her hands shook, as Jonas held her hair in a tight grip and a skinning knife to her throat.
“Well, shit,” Simon muttered, as he stood up, his hands in the air.  Jonas grinned at him.
“So nice of you to join us, Simon.”  Looking from one brother to the other, his grin only showed joy.  As if he was glad they were all here.  “Have a seat.”  In Bonnie’s ear, he cooed, “Hand me the gun, love, you did really well.  Thank you.”  Now he had the gun and the knife, shoving Bonnie toward a chair, he managed to cover them all.  “You know what?  Just to be on the safe side…” he mused, as the gun wavered over toward Simon.  With a loud CRACK fire exploded from Simon’s kneecap.
“Fuck!”  Simon gripped his knee, as pain whitened his vision.  His entire leg was on fire, and even as his mind tried to minimize the injury, just a tiny lead ball in his knee cap with excruciating force, his lungs couldn’t catch the air necessary to breathe.
“Oh Excellent!  You brought your girlfriend!  V has been wanting to meet her.”  Simon managed to retain his vision just long enough to see Lacie being manhandled into the room by the ugliest tattooed motherfucker he’d ever seen.  And then he passed out.

Chapter twenty seven
“Yoga girl!”  The man clapped his hands together, and Lacie could only assume he was the mastermind behind all of this.  But any words lodged in her throat at the sight of Simon, ashen faced, slumped over in his chair, with blood pouring out of his knee.
“Simon!”  She launched herself at him, pressing on his knee, to keep the blood from flowing so freely.  Quinten looked on, his hands behind his back, while his sister wept in the chair on the other side of him.  She removed her jacket and passed it over to Lacie.
“Here,” she whispered through her tears.
“Fiend, tie them up.  Go ahead and dress the senior Mr. Pierce’s leg.  I don’t want him bleeding out just yet, if you don’t mind.”
The man was actually smiling at everybody, like he’d just invited them over for beers and the game.  It was the weirdest thing Lacie had ever experienced.
“So, you’re just carrying on business as usual for dear old dad?”  Quinten snarled from her right side, and a shiver of fear coursed through Lacie.  The scary looking man with the red tattooed face was tying her up.  Living in Austin, she’d seen her fair share of body art, even some of the implants to make people look like dragons and unicorns and stuff.  But never this evil looking.
He had horns surgically implanted onto his shaved scalp, and every inch of his skin was tattooed in the shape of a red skull.  His teeth were filed into points you could see when he smiled, and the guy smiled a lot.  Everybody here was so freakishly happy.  It was insane.
Meanwhile, Quinten was talking as if they all knew each other, which lent another texture to the surrealness of the experience.
“Yeah, but Dad was too short-sighted.  He was in it for the big bucks, whereas I saw the future.”  He spoke with the gun trained on Quinten, obviously the biggest threat, even though he was tied up, with his hands behind his back.
Meanwhile, V was tying her hands.  She could hear his breathing echo in her ear, as his gentle touches sent a sliver of dread across her skin, making her feel slimy.
“I’m not hurting you, am I?”  He spoke softly, intimately, and the illusion it held of familiarity was the stuff of nightmares.  He had a lisp, and Lacie figured it was probably from a forked tongue, slithering around in his mouth.
“No,” she managed to squeak out.  “You’re not.”  She had to stay on friendly terms with one of these guys, and the leader of the two currently had his gun trained on her.  “Who are you?  Have we met?”
“Oh, I’m sorry.  I’m Jonas Lawrence.  I have yet to make your acquaintance.”
“I know him,” Bonnie spoke.  “He stalked me in college.  Apparently, I look like the sister he had some weird affair with before she died.  Am I right?”  Bonnie spat at his feet, already tied to her chair.  “Then my brother killed his dad, and apparently he’s holding a grudge.”
Lacie looked back over at Simon.  The exchange was too much information for her to process, and the fact that her boyfriend was right here, still passed out and bleeding, was freaking her out more than a little.
Jonas advanced on her.  “V may be a little in love with you.”  Lacie’s eyes darted to the aptly named apparition, standing in the shadows.  “He’s been watching you for a while.  In fact, a lot of men have been watching you.  I’ve made quite a bit of cash from you.  I’ll be sad to see it go, but there are always others.”
That’s what she was afraid of.  But she was too afraid to ask.  She didn’t really need to, as he just kept on talking.
“They pay to watch.  They pay more to get a location.”  He chuckled to himself.  “The attacks?  Men paid extra to see those, even.  And the women are a re-usable commodity, until they can’t be used anymore.  It’s brilliant?”
“How did you do it?  Is there a sicko website to watch the girls?”  Quinten asked, fidgeting beside her.
“Why yes… Yes there is.  I took one of Dad’s old ideas and modified it a bit, looked for a different clientele, edgier, more criminal.  I satisfy the craving to watch, and participate.”  Motioning to the tattooed devil, he said, “Fiend, here, helps with silence motivation.  Turns out, he’s quite good at it.”
Lacie threw up a little bit in her mouth, but managed to swallow it back down.  It was gross, but she didn’t want to know what would happen if she drew attention to herself that way.  Next to her, Bonnie had fallen silent.  Quinten was still struggling behind his back and Simon began to mutter incoherently.  She wanted to go to him, badly, to apologize to him.

Jonas walked over to Bonnie and yanked her up by the hair.  “Well, I’m going to go have some private time with my girl, here.  I trust Vwill keep you guys occupied.”
Vsmiled at Lacie and a shiver of revulsion coursed down her spine.  Under any other circumstances, she’d be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but it would be a conscious endeavor to not judge the book by the cover.  She wouldn’t date the guy, but she wouldn’t automatically think he was evil.
Now, though, that thought was firmly off the table.  He’d chased her down in the forest, carried her here against her will, threatened other men to not talk about how they found out about her, had watched her live her life online, and was part of Jonas’s sick plan to exploit women.
Yeah, having him make a move toward her wasn’t on her bucket list.  But there didn’t seem to be anything she could do about it right now.
Suddenly, Simon yelled out of nowhere.
Explosions racked the house, shaking everything, and ripping clouds of dust from nowhere.  Bangs and flashes disoriented her.
“Get down, Lacie!  Get down!”  She threw herself to the floor, and Simon’s body covered hers, as he fell on top of her.  With a roar, Quinten was up and out of the room through the clouds of smoke as gunfire rang out everywhere.
Then all was quiet.
Lacie’s ears rang in the silence as she could hear Simon’s team move through the house with yells of, “All clear!”  Two gunshots in rapid succession and another “All Clear,” from a woman’s voice, and a yell of “Who?”
“Ugliest motherfucker on the planet.”  It had to be Deena Rae’s voice, and Lacie sagged with relief.
“Are you okay?” Simon asked in her ear.
“Yes, but you’re not.  We need to get you to a hospital, Simon.”
A car started outside, and Simon stiffened before yelling, “He’s driving away with Bonnie!  Someone stop him!”
Ryan came in the doorway.  “He won’t get far.  I disabled his alternator.”
Simon grunted.  “Can we just kill the motherfucker?”
“I honestly think we’ve reached the limit of the Austin Police Department’s patience on that one.  But Hollerman’s taking him down right now, so you can bet everything will be done by the book.”

Haven't ordered your copy of Echo yet?