Thursday, September 26, 2013

Blog Tour: The Red Queen Dies by Frankie Y. Bailey

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This virtual book tour is presented by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.
Welcome to The Wormhole and my stop on the tour.
It is my pleasure to feature Frankie Y. Bailey and The Red Queen Dies.

Frankie has joined us for an interview:
? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I think that must have been about the time – when I was about 15 or so – when I saw an ad for the Famous Writers School (a correspondence school). I filled out the form and mailed it. And to my parents’ surprise – and, I suspect, dismay – a sales rep from the school turned up at our door. I don’t remember how the conversation went, but somehow he convinced them to enroll me in their correspondence course. I still have the folder with handwritten feedback from the instructors about the short stories that I submitted. I also still have the textbooks we used.
But I don’t think I ever thought of writing as a career. I intended to become a veterinarian. In fact, I was pre-vet when I started my freshman year at VA Tech. Later, I switched to a double major in Psychology and English. I should say that my career aptitude test did indicate I shared characteristics with military officers and writers. I spent three years in the Army before starting grad school in criminal justice. Eventually, I returned to my roots and began to write, hoping I would be published.
? How many jobs did you have before you became a writer?
If one doesn’t count summer jobs and a job after college in a department store, then only one job as an Army food inspector (I wrote my first two books during that time) and then my present job as a university professor (when I began to write to be published).
? How long does it take you to write a book?
It took me five years to write the first mystery (but the second to be published). Nine months to write the book that became the first published book in my Lizzie Stuart series. Varied amounts of time to write the other three in the series. Now, with my Hannah McCabe series, I will be on a book a year cycle. However, I should note that I also write “scholarly” non-fiction. My mystery writing cycle overlaps with that. So it’s difficult for me to give you a straight-forward answer. It depends on the book and the deadline. I work on fiction and non-fiction at the same time.
? What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I think probably needing to have a title before I can write and “warming up” by writing the first fifty pages (if it’s a novel) over and over again until it feels right.
? Where do you get your ideas or inspiration for your characters?
From my work as a criminal justice professor. My areas of research are crime history, and crime and mass media/popular culture. So I’m constantly exposed to material that can provide ideas and inspiration. But I sometimes also get an idea from overhearing a conversation or seeing something interesting.
? How do you decide what you want to write about?
I decide based on whether the idea excites me enough so that I think I will want to keep on writing even when I hit the inevitable rough spots in the process.
? What books have most influenced your life?
That’s hard to say. I’ve read all my life. I love Shakespeare and the classics (as an English major). I read lots of nonfiction. There is no one book that changed my life – unless it was Dr. Joyce Brother’s How to Get Whatever You Want Out of Life. That book provided me with a way of thinking about my interests and how to combine them in a way that would make me happy and also allow me to earn a living.  
? What are you reading right now?
Several different books – mainly nonfiction as research for the second book in the new series. Books about funeral directors, death and dying, superstitions. I’m also re-reading the novels that my undergrad students are reading for our class. I just finished Shane. Next up The Great Gatsby.
? What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Reading, browsing interior design books as I think renovations on my old house, travel – the usual stuff.
? What is your favorite comfort food?
I love food. It’s hard to pick a favorite – right now I’m thinking of cinnamon rolls. But I love fried oysters. I also love fruits and veggies.
? What do you think makes a good story?
Great characters and an interesting setting.
? Who would you consider your favorite author and why?
I’m not going to answer that because I have too many friends who are authors. But the author who was influential in my decision to become a mystery writer was the late Richard Martin Stern. I loved the characters in his Johnny Ortiz series, particularly Cassandra Enright, a biracial anthropologist. I wrote to tell him so, and he responding with a lovely note.
Fun random questions: 
·        dogs or cats?  Dogs – although I thinking of getting a Maine coon cat
·        Coffee or tea? Tea
·        Dark or milk chocolate? Dark
·        Rocks or flowers? Flowers
·        Night or day? Night
·        Favorite color?  Blue
·        Crayons or markers? Markers
Pens or pencils? Pens

FRANKIE Y. BAILEY is an associate professor in the School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany (SUNY). Bailey is the author of mysteries as well as non-fiction titles that explore the intersections of crime, history, and popular culture. Bailey is a Macavity Award-winner and has been nominated for Edgar, Anthony, and Agatha awards. A past executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime, she is on the Albany Bouchercon 2013 planning committee.

Book Details

Genre: Mystery & Detective
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: Sept 10, 2013
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 978-0-312-64175-7 / 978-1-250-03717-6
Purchase Links:


The first in a new high-concept police procedural series, set in Albany with an Alice in Wonderland theme.
Frankie Bailey introduces readers to a fabulous new protagonist and an Alice in Wonderland-infused crime in this stunning mystery. The year is 2019, and a drug used to treat soldiers for post-traumatic stress disorder, nicknamed "Lullaby," has hit the streets. Swallowing a little pill erases traumatic memories, but what happens to a criminal trial when the star witness takes a pill and can't remember the crime? Biracial detective Hannah McCabe faces similar perplexing problems as she attempts to solve the murders of three women, one of whom, a Broadway actress known as "The Red Queen," has a special interest in the story of Alice in Wonderland. Is the killer somehow reenacting the children's tale? This smart, tough mystery will appeal to fans of high-concept police procedurals.

My thoughts: to follow

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Blog Tour: Strong Rain Falling by Jon Land

This virtual book tour is presented by Partners in Crime Tours.
Click HERE for more information.
Welcome to The Wormhole and my stop on the tour.
It is my pleasure to feature Jon Land and Strong Rain Falling.

Strong Rain Falling by Jon Land
Genre: Thriller
Published by: Forge Books
Publication Date: August 13, 2013
Number of Pages: 368

Series: Caitlin Strong, 5 (Can be read as a Stand Alone)


Mexico, 1919: The birth of the Mexican drug trade begins with opium being smuggled across the U.S. border, igniting an all-out battle with American law enforcement in general and the Texas Rangers in particular.

The Present: Fifth Generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong and her lover, former outlaw Cort Wesley Masters, both survive terrifying gun battles. But this time, it turns out, the actual targets were not them, but Masters’ teenage sons.

That sets Caitlin and Cort Wesley off on a trail winding through the past and present with nothing less than the future of the United States hanging in the balance. Along the way they will confront terrible truths dating all the way back to the Mexican Revolution and the dogged battle Caitlin’s own grandfather and great-grandfather fought against the first generation of Mexican drug dealers.

At the heart of the storm soon to sweep away America as we know it, lies a mastermind whose abundant power is equaled only by her thirst for vengeance. Ana Callas Guajardo, the last surviving member of the family that founded the Mexican drug trade, has dedicated all of her vast resources to a plot aimed at the U.S.’s technological heart.

This time out, sabotage proves to be as deadly a weapon as bombs in a battle Caitlin must win in cyberspace as well. Her lone chance to prevail is to short-circuit a complex plan based as much on microchips as bullets. Because there’s a strong rain coming and only Caitlin and Cort Wesley can stop the fall before it’s too late.
Read an excerpt:


Providence, Rhode Island

Caitlin Strong was waiting downstairs in a grassy park bisected by concrete walkways when Dylan Torres emerged from the building. The boy fit in surprisingly well with the Brown University college students he slid between in approaching her, his long black hair bouncing just past his shoulders and attracting the attention of more than one passing coed.

“How’d it go?” Caitlin asked, rising from the bench that felt like a sauna in the sun.

Dylan shrugged and blew some stray hair from his face with his breath. “Size could be an issue.”

“For playing football at this level, I expect so.”

“Coach Estes didn’t rule it out. He just said there were no more first year slots left in the program.”

“First year?”

“Freshman, Caitlin.”

“How’d you leave it?” she asked, feeling dwarfed by the athletic buildings that housed playing courts, training facilities, a swimming pool, full gym and the offices of the school’s coaches. The buildings enclosed the park-like setting on three sides, leaving the street side to be rimmed by an eight-foot wall of carefully layered stone. Playing fields took up the rear of the complex beyond the buildings and, while waiting for Dylan, Caitlin heard the clang of aluminum bats hitting baseballs and thunks of what sounded like soccer balls being kicked about. Funny how living in a place the size of Texas made her antsy within an area where so much was squeezed so close.

“Well, short of me growing another four inches and putting on maybe twenty pounds of muscle, it’s gonna be an uphill battle,” Dylan said, looking down. “That is, if I even get into this place. That’s an uphill battle too.”

She reached out and touched his shoulder. “This coming from a kid who’s bested serial killers, kidnappers and last year a human monster who bled venom instead of blood.”

Dylan started to shrug, but smiled instead. “Helps that you and my dad were there to gun them all down.”

“Well, I don’t believe we’ll be shooting Coach Estes and my point was if anybody can handle an uphill battle or two, it’s you.”

Dylan lapsed into silence, leaving Caitlin to think of the restaurant they’d eaten at the night before where the waitress had complimented her on having such a good looking son. She’d felt her insides turn to mush when the boy smiled and went right on studying the menu, not bothering to correct the woman. He was three quarters through a fifth year at San Antonio’s St. Anthony Catholic High School, in range of finishing the year with straight “A”s. Though the school didn’t formally offer such a program, Caitlin’s captain D. W. Tepper had convinced them to make an exception on behalf of the Texas Rangers by slightly altering their Senior Connection program to fit the needs of a boy whose grades hadn’t anywhere near matched his potential yet.

Not that it was an easy fit. The school’s pristine campus in historic Monte Vista just north of downtown San Antonio was populated by boys and girls in staid, prescribed uniforms that made Dylan cringe. Blazers instead of shapeless shirts worn out at the waist, khakis instead of jeans gone from sagging to, more recently, what they called skinny, and hard leather dress shoes instead of the boots Caitlin had bought him for his birthday a few years back. But the undermanned football team had recruited him early on, Dylan donning a uniform for the first time since a brief stint in the Pop Warner league as a young boy while his mother was still alive and the father he’d yet to meet was in prison. This past fall at St. Anthony’s he’d taken to the sport again like a natural, playing running back and sifting through the tiniest holes in the defensive line to amass vast chunks of yardage. Dylan ended up being named Second Team All TAPPS District 2-5A, attracting the attention of several small colleges, though none on the level of Brown University, a perennial contender for the Ivy League crown.

Caitlin found those Friday nights, sitting with Cort Wesley Masters and his younger son Luke in stands ripe with the first soft bite of fall, strangely comforting. Given that she’d never had much use for such things in her own teenage years, the experience left her feeling as if she’d been transported back in time with a chance to relive her own youth through a boy who was as close to a son as she’d ever have. Left her recalling her own high school days smelling of gun oil instead of perfume. She’d been awkward then, gawky after growing tall fast. Still a few years short of forty, Caitlin had never added to that five-foot-seven-inch frame, although the present found her filled out and firm from regular workouts and jogging. She wore her wavy black hair more fashionably styled, but kept it the very same length she always had, perhaps in a misguided at-tempt to slow time if not stop it altogether.

Gazing at Dylan now, she recalled the headmaster of his school, a cousin of Caitlin’s own high school principal, coming up to her after the victorious opening home game.

“The school owes you a great bit of gratitude, Ranger.”

“Well, sir, I’ll bet Dylan’ll do even better next week.”

The headmaster gestured toward the newly installed lights. “I meant gratitude for the Rangers arranging for the variance that allowed us to go forward with the installation. That’s the only reason we’re able to be here to-night.”

She’d nodded, smiling to herself at how Captain Tepper had managed to arrange Dylan’s admission. “Our pleasure, sir.”

Now, months later on the campus of an Ivy League school in Providence, Rhode Island, Dylan looked down at the grass and then up again, something furtive lurking in his suddenly narrowed eyes. The sun sneaking through a nearby tree dappled his face and further hid what he was about to share.

“I got invited to a frat party.”

“Say that again.”

“I got invited to a party at this frat called D-Phi.”

“D what?”

“Short for Delta Phi. Like the Greek letters.”

“I know they’re Greek letters, son, just like I know what goes on at these kind of parties given that I’ve been called to break them up on more than one occasion.”

“You’re the one who made me start thinking about college.”

“Doesn’t mean I got you thinking about doing shots and playing beer pong.”


Caitlin looked at him as if he were speaking a foreign language.

“They call it Beirut here, not beer pong,” Dylan continued. “And it’s important I get a notion of what the campus life is like. You told me that too.”

“I did?”


“I let you go to this party, you promise you won’t drink?”

Dylan rolled his head from side to side. “I promise I won’t drink much.”

“What’s that mean?”

“That I’ll be just fine when you come pick me up in the morning to get to the airport.”

“Pick you up,” Caitlin repeated, her gaze narrowing.

“I’m staying with this kid from Texas who plays on the team. Coach set it up.”

“Coach Estes?”

“Yup. Why?’

Caitlin slapped an arm around the boy’s shoulder and steered him toward the street. “Because I may rethink my decision about shooting him.”

“I told him you were a Texas Ranger,” Dylan said, as they approached a pair of workmen stringing a tape measure outside the athletic complex’s hockey rink.

“What’d he think about that?” Caitlin said, finding her gaze drawn to the two men she noticed had no tools and were wearing scuffed shoes instead of work boots.

“He said he liked gals with guns.”

They continued along the walkway that curved around the park-like grounds, banking left at a small lot where Caitlin had parked her rental. She worked the remote to unlock the doors and watched Dylan ease around to the passenger side, while she turned back toward the hockey rink and the two workmen she couldn’t shake from her mind.

But they were gone.

Author Bio:
Jon Land is the author of more than 30 thrillers, including the bestselling Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger series that includes Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance and, coming this August, Strong Rain Falling. This past fall he resurrected his longtime series hero Blaine McCracken in the E-Book Original Pandora’s Temple, which became a bestseller on both Apple and Amazon and was nominated for a Thriller Award as Best E-Book Original. A follow-up, The Tenth Circle, is slated for release in time for the holiday season. Jon’s first nonfiction book, BETRAYAL, meanwhile, was a national bestseller and was named Best True Crime Book of 2012 by Suspense Magazine. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island and can be found on the Web at

Review to follow.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: The Lone Wolf Agenda by Joseph Badal (Giveaway)

This blog tour is presented by Partners In Crime Tours.
Click HERE for more tour information.
Welcome to The Wormhole and my stop on the tour.
It is my pleasure to feature:
Joseph Badal and The Lone Wolf Agenda.
Joseph Badal worked for thirty-eight years in the banking and financial services industries, most recently serving as a senior executive and board member of a NYSE-listed mortgage REIT. He is currently President of Joseph Badal and Associates, Inc., a management consulting firm.

Prior to his finance career, Joe served for six years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army in critical, highly classified positions in the U.S. and overseas, including tours of duty in Greece and Vietnam. He earned numerous military decorations. 

He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in International Finance (Temple University) and Business Administration (University of New Mexico). He graduated from the Defense Language Institute, West Coast, and from Stanford University Law School’s Director College.

Joe serves on the boards of Sacred Wind Communications and New Mexico Mutual Insurance, and is Chairman and President of The New Mexico Small Business Investment Corporation.

Joe has had five suspense novels published, including Shell Game, which was released in 2012. His next novel, The Lone Wolf Agenda, will be released in June. He writes a blog titled Everyday Heroes. His first short story, Fire and Ice, was included in an anthology titled Uncommon Assassins, in 2012.

Joe has written dozens of articles that have been published in various business and trade journals, and is a frequent speaker at national business and writers’ events.


With “The Lone Wolf Agenda,” Joseph Badal steps back into the world of international espionage and military action thrillers and crafts a story that is as close to the real world of spies and soldiers as a reader can find. This fourth book in the Danforth Saga brings Bob Danforth out of retirement to hunt down lone wolf terrorists hell bent on destroying America’s oil infrastructure. Badal weaves just enough technology into his story to wow even the most a-technical reader.

“The Lone Wolf Agenda” pairs Danforth with his son Michael, a senior DELTA Force officer, as they combat an OPEC-supported terrorist group allied with a Mexican drug cartel. This story is an epic adventure that will chill readers as they discover that nothing, no matter how diabolical, is impossible. 

My thoughts:
It has been a long while since I read an international espionage story.  This is the fourth book in the Danforth Saga, and my first Danforth read.  It took me awhile to get into it, but it was worth it.  I felt it could easily stand alone, but I am sure that I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the whole saga from the start.

Joseph Badal has captured the horror of terrorism in a chilling tale that makes the reader wonder and worry. Who can you trust?  Are people really who and what you think they are?

The characters are well written and easy to invest in.  The plot is clever, realistic and frightening; made up of detailed research and carefully woven threads.  The politics within the story are interesting on a variety of levels, and between the characters as much as the story on the whole.  I was pleased to find the acronym index in the front of the book and found myself referring to it many times.  The story is nicely paced and suspenseful.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

S.R. Johannes' Street Team - - - Mission #2 ~ Swag for Students!

We are hitting the streets again to promote Untraceable and Uncontrollable (We will get to see the cover for Unstoppable in October!) - - - four students joined me in the effort.  Signed bookmarks, fun pens and Grace bracelets are their bonus for getting on board.  They are all excited about reading the books, which were new to them, hopefully we will be featuring student reviews in the future!

(These students are all members of our school reading club and have agreed to having their pictures be a part of an internet promotion).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Review: Devil in the Hole by Charles Salzberg


Devil in the Hole is based on a true crime that occurred over 40 years ago in New Jersey, wherein a man murdered his entire family, wife, three children, mother and the family dog, and disappeared. My novel uses that event and takes off from there, following the murderer on his escape route. Using the voices of people he meets along the way, and people who are affected by his crime, the reader starts to build a portrait of the man and why he did what he did, in addition to following those who are searching for him.

My Thoughts:
For me, the characters are what make a story great.  The more I can get into the characters, the more I enjoy the read.  This book is filled with characters that the reader can invest in.  
Although I read quite a number of murder/mystery thriller type books, this one is different.  Told from a variety of points of view, you would think that the story would loose focus or falter in its pacing, but it does not.  The story is cleverly created, fast paced and well written.  

Monday, September 9, 2013

Blog Tour: Devil in the Hole by Charles Salzberg (ebook giveaway)

 This virtual book tour is presented by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours
Click HERE for more information.
Welcome to The Wormhole and my stop on the tour.
It is my pleasure to feature Charles Salzberg and Devil in the Hole.

Charles has stopped by for an interview:
? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I must have been seven or eight years old and, being a shy kid, I found and got lost in the world of reading.  There was a drugstore downstairs and almost every day I haunted the rack of paperback books, filled with enticing covers and titles like, The Moviegoer, Seize the Day, and Catcher in the Rye. I would spend most of my allowance money on books and slowly I realized this is what I wanted to do with my life: write and create worlds in which I’d like to live.

? How many jobs did you have before you became a writer?
Other than summer jobs when I was a kid, the only jobs I held as an adult were teaching, typing invoices for a Norwegian furniture store and working in the mailroom at New York magazine.  Once I left the mailroom, I became a magazine journalist, then wrote books, my own, ghostwritten and co-written, all the while continuing to write fiction, my first love.

? How long does it take you to write a book?
It varies.  My first novel, Swann’s Last Song, took several years, but that’s because I put it down and picked it back up again.  Swann Dives In took a year.  Devil in the Hole took longer, because again I started it, stopped it, then got back into it.  Probably ten years altogether.  Swann’s Lake of Despair, which will be published next year, took only 9 or 10 months. But when I was writing non-fiction, and I’ve published over 20 books, on assignment I could do a book in six months.

? What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I don’t think I have any interesting writing quirks, unlike Goethe who kept rotten apples in his desk drawer, or Hemingway who would stop in the middle of a sentence if things were going well.  The most interesting quirk, I guess, is what I’ll do to avoid writing.  Almost anything.

? Where do you get your ideas or inspiration for your characters?
I wish I knew.  They come out of thin air, sometimes, and sometimes I’ll notice something in someone I know or someone I’ve met that I unconsciously file away and it usually just comes out when I least expect it.  Or, in the case of Devil in the Hole, it was a newspaper story that set my imagination afire. 

? How do you decide what you want to write about?
Whatever happens to interest me at the moment.  With Devil in the Hole, I read about the murder case it was based on and I was fascinated at how someone could plan so meticulously to kill his entire family, to the point where he gave himself a several weeks head start on the authorities.  I had to know what could his possible reason have been for committing such a horrible crime.  With Swann Dives In, I just wanted to learn more about the rare book business, so that’s where I set the plot.  Swann’s Lake of Despair takes place in the world of photography, another subject that piqued my interest.

? What books have most influenced your life?
I would have to say Catcher in the Rye, Lolita, Portnoy’s Complaint, Seize the Day, The Adventures of Augie March, Huckleberry Finn, and The Naked and the Dead, anything by Dashiell Hammett. But I’m sure I’m forgetting plenty of others.

? What are you reading right now?
A Brief History of Nearly Everything. By Bill Bryson. I want to become smarter than I am, which shouldn’t be too difficult.

? What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Movies.  Reading.  Softball.  Meeting up with friends. Plays.

? What is your favorite comfort food?
Burger and fries.  And ice cream cake.

? What do you think makes a good story?
Pretty much anything.  I found when I was a magazine journalist that everyone, and I mean everyone, has a good story to tell, though sometimes they didn’t know it.  It was my job to find that story and get it out of them.  Same with fiction.  A good writer can make a good story out of anything and anyone.

? Who would you consider your favorite author and why?
I’ve got so many, but probably Nabokov because of his incredible ability to use and play with words.  But other favorites include Saul Bellow and Philip Roth.

Fun random questions: 

  • dogs or cats?  Both
  • Coffee or tea? No coffee, ever, I just don’t like hot drinks, and only iced tea.
  • Dark or milk chocolate? Milk, but I wouldn’t turn down chocolate, or any sweet, for that matter.
  • Rocks or flowers? Flowers.
  • Night or day? Day
  • Favorite color? Blue
  • Crayons or markers?  Crayons
  • Pens or pencils? Pens

Book Details

Genre: Literary psychological crime fiction
Published by: Five Star/Cengage
Publication Date: July 19, 2013
Number of Pages: 253


Devil in the Hole is based on a true crime that occurred over 40 years ago in New Jersey, wherein a man murdered his entire family, wife, three children, mother and the family dog, and disappeared. My novel uses that event and takes off from there, following the murderer on his escape route. Using the voices of people he meets along the way, and people who are affected by his crime, the reader starts to build a portrait of the man and why he did what he did, in addition to following those who are searching for him.

Author Bio:
Charles Salzberg is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Esquire, New York magazine, Elle, Good Housekeeping, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times, GQ and other periodicals. He is the author of over 20 non-fiction books and several novels, including Swann's Last Song, which was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel, and the sequel, Swann Dives In. He also has taught been a Visiting Professor of Magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and taught writing at Sarah Lawrence College, the Writer's Voice, and the New York Writers Workshop, where he is a Founding Member.


Chapter One:  James Kirkland

I knew something was out of whack, only I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Just something, you know. And it wasn’t only that I hadn’t seen any of them for some time. I mean, they’d been living there for what, three, three and a half years, and I don’t think I ever had more than a two- or three-minute conversation with any of them. And God knows, it wasn’t as if I didn’t try.

All things considered, they were pretty good neighbors. Mostly, I guess, because they kept to themselves. Which is certainly better than having neighbors who are always minding your business, or who don’t mow their lawn, or who drop in uninvited, or who throw wild parties and play loud music all night long. They weren’t like that. Just the opposite, in fact. Why, with that great big front lawn and two teenage boys you’d think they’d be out there tossing a football or a Frisbee around, or something. But no. It was so quiet sometimes it was as if no one lived there at all. Though I did hear rumors that the boys had a reputation of being hell-raisers. Maybe that’s why they kept such a tight lid on them when they were home. Because I can honestly say there wasn’t any hell-raising going on in that house that I could see. As a matter of fact, the only way you’d know the house was occupied was when you’d see the kids going to school, or him going off to work, or her and the mother going out to shop. Or at night, when the lights were on.

Which brings me back to the house itself. And those lights. It was the middle of November, a week or so before Thanksgiving, when I first noticed it. I was coming home from work and when I glanced over there I noticed the place was lit up like a Christmas tree. It’s a Georgian-style mansion, one of the nicest in the neighborhood, by the way, with something like twenty rooms, and I think the lights were on in every single one of them. But the downstairs shades were drawn tight, so all you could see was the faint outline of light around the edges of the windows, which gave it this really eerie look. Maybe they’ve got people over, was my first thought. But that would have been so out of character because in all the time they’d lived there I’d never seen anyone go in or out other than them. And anyway, it was absolutely quiet and there were no cars in the driveway or parked out on the street.

Just before I turned in, I looked out the window and noticed the house was still lit up, which was odd, since it was nearly midnight and, as a rule, they seemed to turn in kind of early over there.

The next night when I came home from work and I looked across the street the lights were still on. And that night, before I went to bed, after midnight, I looked out and the lights were still blazing.

After that, I made a kind of game of it. Under the pretense of getting some fresh air, I walked close to the house, as close as I could get without looking conspicuous, and listened to see if there were any sounds coming from inside. A couple of times, when I thought I heard something, I stopped to listen more carefully. But I never picked up anything that might indicate that someone was inside. And each night, when I came home from work, I made it a point to check out the house and make a note of how many lights were still burning and in which windows. I even began to search for silhouettes, shadows, anything I might interpret as a sign of life. And it wasn’t long before I whipped out the old binoculars to take a look, thinking maybe I could see something, anything, that would give me a hint as to what was going on. But when my wife accused me of being a peeping Tom, I put them away, at least while she was around.

There weren’t always the same number of rooms lit, but I noticed there were always fewer, never more. It was as if someone was going around that house each day turning off one light in one room, but in no discernible pattern. I began to think of that damn house during the day, while I was at work, or on the train coming home. It became a real thing with me. I even kept a notebook with a sketch of the house and notations next to each window that had a light on.

At night, I played a game. I began to think of that house as my own personal shooting gallery and, sitting on the window sill in my pajamas, while my wife was either in the bathroom or asleep, I’d choose one of the rooms and aim my imaginary rifle and pop! pop!, I’d shoot out one of the light bulbs. And, if the next night that particular room was dark, I’d get a tremendous rush of self-satisfaction that carried me through the whole next day. It was kind of like one of those video games my kids play. Pretty sick, huh?

I mentioned it to my wife—not my silly game, but the fact that those lights were going out one by one. She thought I was nuts. “Can’t you find anything better to do with your time?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “I’m entertaining myself. Leave me alone.” Then I asked whether she’d seen the Hartmans lately, because I was beginning to have this weird feeling in the pit of my stomach, as if something was seriously wrong. That it wasn’t a game anymore.

“No,” she said. “I haven’t. But that’s not unusual. Besides, it’s not as if I’m looking for them. If you ask me, they’re creepy. The whole bunch of them.”

“I know. But maybe . . . maybe there’s something wrong.”

“Go to bed,” she said. So I did, lulling myself to sleep with my imaginary rifle cradled in my arms, as if it would actually afford me some protection just in case something was wrong.

A few nights later, I set the alarm for three-thirty and slipped the clock under my pillow. When the vibration woke me, I got up quietly, so as not to wake my wife, looked out the window and sure enough the same number of lights was burning in the house as the night before. I was puzzled and frustrated because I was dying to know what was going on. I even thought of making up some kind of lame excuse to ring the Hartmans’ bell. But I didn’t have the nerve.

Two weeks later, only three rooms in the house were still lit. Down from eight the week before, fourteen the week before that, the week I began to keep count. I asked my son, David, whether he’d seen the Hartman kid in school, the one in his class.

“We’re not exactly best buds, Dad,” he said. “He keeps to himself. He’s weird. Maybe he’s queer or something.”

“I just asked if you’d seen any of them lately.”

“Not that I can remember. But I don’t go out of my way looking for any of them. They’re a bunch of weirdoes.”

I went back up to my room and stared out the window for maybe fifteen minutes, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. I wondered if I should do something.

“Come to bed,” my wife said.

“I’m worried,” I said without taking my eyes off the Hartman house. “There’s definitely something wrong over there.”

“You’re being ridiculous,” she said. “Besides, it’s none of our business.”

“No, I can feel it. Something’s . . .”

She sighed, got out of bed and handed me the phone. “Well, rather than having to spend the rest of my life with a man who insists on staring out the window at the neighbors’ house all night like an idiot, I’d just as soon you called the police and let them put your mind at ease. At least maybe they can get them to turn out all the lights. Maybe then we can get some sleep over here.”

So, that’s how I called the cops.

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