Sunday, September 28, 2014


I'm currently writing book 2.5 of the Paranormal Washington series, a novella that delves into Nick's experience as he's sent off to a hidden vampire collective in the Canadian wilderness to escape a death warrant in the states. Here are the first two chapters:

Book 2.5
Nil’s Journey

By Diana Graves

Copyright © 2014 Diana Graves
All rights reserved.
Book cover & format by Diana Graves,
Kindle Edition


     He could smell her moments before he heard Raina’s distinctive knock at his front door and he slowly rose from where he sat crouched in the dark, staring at a locket on a dainty silver chain. The locket was small, with a black stone encircled by a bronze snake, made green with age. He rubbed his thumb over it again and again, mesmerized by the feel of the sleek cold stone. Reluctantly he put the necklace in his pocket and moved through his condo, quicker than the human eye could follow, to answer the door.
     He looked down at his sister, standing in the dark wearing a bright dress. Her pale skin shined with a light of its own, and her red hair and eyes were a striking blaze of color that made the rest of the world seem bland by comparison. To Nick, his sister embodied everything good and beautiful. He felt quite the opposite about himself.
     “Nick—,” Raina said by way of greeting. There was a quivering in her voice that pained his heart to hear. He knew he looked god-awful. He wasn’t rotting from the inside out anymore, but he was sickeningly thin. His clothes hung on his bones. His skin was a disturbing grey and veiny as hell. Even his own red hair had lost some of its brightness.
     He sniffed the air around her and smelled a man’s cologne hanging on her clothes and in her hair.
     “Who came with you?” he asked her with a deep frown.
     “A friend I could trust to help us get you someplace safe,” she said.  She looked anxious. Perhaps she thought Nick would fight her. She was right to assume that, but he had no intention of running from the law.  He’d killed three innocent people, and now there was a mark on his head. He thought, a well-deserved one.
But he didn’t fight her. Instead he said, “Okay, just let me get some things.”
     He invited her in before making his way to his bedroom, leaving Raina alone. His condo had an open floor plan, all but the bedroom and bathroom occupied one large space. Before Nick was murdered and brought back to life via vampirism, he was a proud wizard.  Magic was his livelihood.  He used to run a successful online magic store, where he sold potions, pranks, and curses.  Nothing illegal, but he pushed the boundaries enough to get him kicked out of his family’s coven.
     Nick’s home reflected his love for wizardry, potion making to be more precise.  He had a custom made wizard’s kitchen, with massive wall to wall book cases, two stove tops, plenty of counter space and exotic plants hanging and sitting everywhere. Normally the whole condo was alight with bright lamps to help the plants grow, but Nick hadn’t been home for months now, not since his murder and infection, and the plants had begun to wither and die in his absence.
     The rest of his condo was decorated with cultural art from around the world and his furniture was sleek faux leather, wrought iron and stained woods. While, Raina walked around his place, staring at old pictures and knickknacks that held fond memories, Nick was in his room staring at the locket again. He didn’t understand it, but he felt hesitant to give it to her. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly before gently laying the locket back into the old wood box he’d originally found it in.
     As Nick came out of his room Raina gave him a look of confusion.  “That can’t be everything you want to take with you?”
     “No, this is for you,” he said, and he opened the box to reveal the locket. 
     “What is that?”
     “I stole it from Mom’s yesterday,” he said. “She had no clue I was even there.”
     “I’ve been through Mom’s jewelry box a hundred times, and I’ve never seen this necklace,” Raina said with her eyes transfixed on the locket. She jumped with sudden realization when her fingers touched the cool stone. It was as though her hand had moved on its own accord. She took her hand back and held it to her chest as though the stone had bit her.
     “She didn’t keep it in her jewelry box,” Nick said.  “Take it.”
     Raina picked up the locket from the box slowly.  It was heavier than she thought it would be, being so small and all. 
     “When I turned into this—thing—vampire, at first everything was chaos. Hunger, death, hate, regret.” He averted his eyes.  “But, then things started clearing up.  I started remembering things, things that I forgot a long time ago.”
     “What did you remember?” Raina asked without taking her eyes off the locket.
     “Your death.” Raina’s head shot up, a mix of horror and confusion in her eyes.  “I remembered your death, Raina.  When you were a baby—I was there.  I remembered Mom screaming.”  Nick took a deep breath.  “I remember the Goddess that came. Melpomene, the muse of tragedy.  She brought you back from the dead.”
     “Mom told me,” Raina whispered.  “But, she didn’t say that you were there.”
     Nick scoffed. “She has to keep her secrets, Raina. You know that,” he said. “But, yes, I was there.”
     “And Dan and Tristan?”
     “Dad and Tristan were gone on a fishing trip, or did Mom say different?  You know, sometimes I don’t understand why she lies about some things and not others.  But, I do understand why she lied about me being there.”
     “Because Melpomene needed life to create life, and Mom volunteered mine.”
     Raina’s eyes went impossibly wide with shock! “What happened?”
     “She didn’t need all my life, just a little to get you going, not that Mom knew that when she offered me up.  We’ve always wondered why you could read me so well, even now when I’m a vampire and should be locked away from your clever little mind.  My life is mingled in yours.  A little part of you came from me.”
     Raina didn’t say anything, but looked deep in thought. Eventually she asked, “Where does the locket fit in all of this?”
     “Melpomene left it for you, but Mom hid it in a box under a floorboard in her room.  She liked to pretend that night never happened.  I thought you should have it.  Here, let me put it on you,” he said.
     Raina turned and lifted her hair so he could fasten it around her neck. “Nick, why did you kill those people and take my blood samples?” she asked just as he clasped the necklace together. She turned around and he stepped away from her with a very serious, miserable expression on his face.
     “You are a demigoddess, Raina, and a muse to boot.  Fully trained your power will be terrible, and your hold on any living mind will be complete.  Melpomene said it the night she saved you from death.  If people know what you are, you’re as good as dead.”
     It was hard for Nick to recall it. Killing those three people was the worst moment in his entire life. How could he be capable of such a thing? He was part elf after all. He was a vegan! All life was sacred to him, especially innocent life. Doctor Tasha had saved his life more than once. She was the doctor at the vampire care center, VCC, who treated him and his siblings when they were attacked by a rogue vampire in a blood rage, infecting him and Raina with vampirism. And again, when he starved himself until he was rotting to death. She was a good woman, and her nurses were good people, too, loved people. But he killed them viciously, and he would do it again.
     “I could smell your blood samples in her office while I sat up in the Darkness VCC healing from my stupidity.  I could hear them talking about you.  The doctor knew what you are, and she was going to report it to the government.  She told a nurse as much, and he told another nurse, and I knew it was going to spread.  Being a rare living vampire is one of the things that made you famous.  Being half God would make you infamous.  I had to stop it before it got too far.”
     Raina gasped. “For me, you killed them for me?” She looked down and closed her eyes. It took her a moment to regain her composure. She wiped away tears and looked up at her big brother. Somehow it hurt him to see the unconditional love in her eyes. Was there nothing he could do to make her stop loving him?  Their mother stopped loving him. Their father, too. Their brother, Tristan would have nothing to do with him.      Only Raina, only she loved him in this world.
     “The sun is coming up, we need to go,” she said.
     He sighed and walked to the window.  “It’s later than you think.” He peeled back the curtain to reveal black bags over the window. 
     “We need to hurry,” Raina said as she moved to the door, but he didn’t budge from the window. “Nick, come on.”
     “Maybe it’s because of your empathy, your muse, or maybe it’s because a part of me is in you, but you are the only person in the world who loves me, Raina.  Did you know that?  That’s why I wanted you here.  I didn’t want to die alone,” he said the last part with a grunt as he pulled the black bags off the window and the bright morning sun shot through the room. 
     Flames erupted from his body. The pain was sharp and all encompassing. He could barely hear Raina’s screams over the roar of the fire.  He felt the motion of being jolted around, but the flames ate at his flesh greedily. His skin, his nerves, his muscle, even his bones burned through and through.


     The first thing Nick sensed was the erythematic beeping sound coming from his right. It was in time with his heartbeat. A heart monitor, he thought. He opened his eyes and saw only white fibers. He pulled at the gauze on his face with stiff hands until he could see the hospital room beyond. The lights were off, but being a vampire, he could see well enough. His body was almost completely covered in gauze, like a mummy. It made his moments stiff as he looked around the room. For a moment he thought he was alone, but what he believed was a white doctor’s coat laying over the back of a chair, was actually a man sitting on a stool, with his head resting on his desk.  Nick thought he was sleeping, but then the man’s head abruptly shot up and turned to look at him as he smoothed back his short bleach blond hair.
     Nick gasped. He recognized the man. Doctor Gabriel, a vampire, a fuck evil vampire! Nick struggled to move in his gauze. He fought and thrashed like a fish out of water to get off the bed and ended up falling hard on the cold floor. Gabriel stood slowly, elegantly and pushed a button on the wall before he moved to Nick’s side.
     “Nil,” he said, as Nil was the name Nick had given himself when he first woke as the undead. It was a mark of self-hate naming himself after nothingness. “I’m here to help you, not hurt you.”
     Sadly that needed to be said, because that was not always the case between Gabriel and Nick.
     Nick tried to speak, but found he couldn’t and his panic became that much greater. He pushed and kicked at Gabriel with every ounce of strength he had in him, because he knew where he was. He swore to himself he’d never return to this hell hole, this cesspool of evil! Bastion Fatal.  
     “Calm down,” Gabriel demanded as he manhandled Nick, holding him in place against the wall. But Nick couldn’t calm down. Gabriel was touching him! The last time Gabriel touched him he was strapped down on a marble table in the middle of the throne room. Vampires stood around him, laughing at his pain, while Gabriel delicately cut chunks of flesh from his thighs in order to make his tendons accessible so the master vampire of Bastion Fatal could strum on them.
     “Scream for ME!” Master Alistair had roared above the laughter of his legion of vampires. How he loved the sounds of screams; desperate shrilling shrieks of pain and thunderous bellows of agony.
     Gabriel gave up on calming Nick down. He dashed to the far cupboards for a sedative. When he came back with a syringe in hand Nick suddenly found his voice and cried out.
     “No! Stay back!”
     “You just need to calm down so we can transport you. Screaming boxes draw too much attention, Nil.”
     Box? Nick swung his arms out fitfully, knocking the syringe from Gabriel’s hands, and backed up into the far corner, hiding himself under a metal table.
     “Gods be damned!” Gabriel spat, and he moved to fetch another syringe from the cupboard when the door swung open, splashing light from the hall over the empty bed and cutting the room in half before the door closed again.
     Darkness returned to the small room, and Nick peeked out from under his table when he heard soft voices. Gabriel was talking to a tall man wearing jeans and a black t-shirt, his golden blond hair was up in a ponytail.
     Gabriel gestured to Nick’s hiding spot and Alistair looked back at Nick with thoughtful eyes. Nick screamed and jumped, hitting his head on the table. His heart was beating madly with fear. Alistair was the man who haunted his nightmares. He was the reason Nick sought true death. Punishing himself was only part of Nick’s suicidal tendencies. In truth, he could not live with himself after what Alistair had done to him; the torture, the rape, the cruel things he made him watch and do. Better to die.
     With that in mind, Nick began smacking his head against the wall, hoping to break his skull and end his life before the torture began again. How did he survive the fire? He should be nothing more than a pile of ash.      Instead he woke at Bastion Fatal of all places. How?
     Alistair bent down and pulled Nick out from under the table by his feet. Without much effort at all he held Nick up in the air. Blood was trickling down Nick’s face. His eyes were half open. He’d done some damage, but would it be enough to kill him? He hoped so, because he had no more strength in him to fight.
Alistair set him back on his bed, and looked down at Nick. His true blue eyes were soft with pity and worry.
     “There are many things you don’t understand, Nil,” Alistair said quietly, but his voice grated on Nick’s very soul and he cringed with disgust. Alistair licked his lips in a nervous fashion and the sight of his tongue made Nick nauseous.
     Alistair looked to Gabriel for help and Gabe gave him a reassuring nod, but his face looked grim.
     “I’m not who I used to be,” Alistair said slowly as he searched for better words. “I was never the man you remember me to be. That wasn’t me…” he mumbled as he realized the uselessness of his efforts. Nick wouldn’t understand. He couldn’t. No one could. Tears escaped Alistair’s eyes as he worked to accept that.
     “Master,” Gabriel interjected. He was holding a syringe. Alistair nodded and accepted the syringe Gabriel was holding out to him.
     “Your sister loves you, Nil. She saved you.”
     “I think I did more of the saving,” Gabe scoffed. “You brought me a burnt corpse!”
     “And it would have been a bag of ashes if it weren’t for Raina,” Alistair said in an even tone without looked away from Nick.
     At the mention of his sister Nick began to struggle to sit up, but his head injury kept him down. “Raina?” he mumbled.
     “She’s fine,” Alistair assured him. “You’ve been unconscious for some time actually. Weeks. You’ve been healing slowly.”
     “Why?” Nick asked, but without contents Alistair gave him only a questioning look. “Why help?”
     “Why are you here, healing?” Alistair asked. Nick nodded. “I owe you more than I can ever repay, but I’ll never stop trying, Nil.”
     “And you’re in love with Raina,” Gabriel muttered to himself from where he stood in the background with his arms crossed over his chest.
      Alistair closed his eyes as Nick’s panic struck up, renewed by the idea of such a monster courting his sister. She was a kind hearted woman! A creature of light and goodness. How could such a villain even think to touch her?
     “No!” Nick roared as he fought against Alistair, but the master vampire was ridiculously stronger than the half dead baby vamp batting at him from his gurney. Alistair held Nick down with one hand and injected the sedative into his arm with the other. “No…” Nick whimpered. “Don’t touch her.”
     Alistair set the empty syringe down on the counter and smiled sadly down at Nick. “Fortunately, I don’t think she’d ever let me, Nil.”

Elijah will always be my Nicholas! 

Saturday, September 27, 2014


As far as my career goes, I'm getting rather frustrated. I know being an artist doesn't pay the bills. Last month I earned just over $30 from sells between 4 books, and that is the most I've ever made in a month...I'm so not even close to quitting my day job, or night job as it were. But I'm getting frustrated there, too.

While I was in college I used the extra time at night, when all my work was done and all the hotel guests were sleeping, to study and write. After college I used it to write and fill out job applications, what with my shiny new Bachelor's degree. (5 years later, no new job)

I used to love working all night at the hotel, (Eh, love is a bit strong. Endured well would fit better)

...However, the amount of work keeps piling up and up. I'm doing more and more. The boss seems angry if I have a minute to myself.  I don't get lunch breaks, I don't get any breaks at all! I work 10 hours a night, nonstop with no recognition and I'm constantly taking on new responsibilities and special projects. Employees that haven't been there a whole year have been made Employee of the Month. I am the ONLY employee who can't boast that title. That among other hints tells me that my boss doesn't like me, she never even sees me. My body and mind beat me up because it's unnatural to stay up all night and I've been doing this for over 8 years.All the perks of working at night are gone. I haven't written a word in over a weeks. I have no quiet to write at home and no time to write at work...No quiet and no writing makes Diana go something something (CRAZY)....Maybe I just need a new job.

Rant done, thank you for listening. Not sure if any of that made sense...I got off work at 7:15am and I'm still up at 2:30pm. My brain is fried.and I need to be back at work at 9:30pm. I need to get to sleep! LOL 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014



After participating in Kindle Unlimited for a month I declare it AWESOME! All previous concerns have been washed away by solid evidence of sales = $, even sales from KU. No more worries...though I had fun cutting my books up. LOL

So apparently Amazon has made some changes for authors and subsequently it's become more popular to write only novellas, which are 70-160 pages, or about 17,000 - 40,000 words.

Basically, Amazon has made it so that it's easier and cheaper for people who LOVE to read to buy as many books as they like for only $10.00 a month, Kindle Unlimited. That's a great deal! The only thing is, we author's only get paid when someone has read at least 10% of the book...If your books are anywhere between 300-400 or more pages, like mine, you may not get paid for a long time...10% being 30-40 pages in.  And if we consider that most people read a couple chapters in a sitting, then get back to the book some time later...if ever, yeah you may never see a dime.

Which brings me to the other reason shorter books are becoming more popular. People's time constrains. We have busier lives and shorter attention spans. For the over worked and over stressed folks, shorter is better. I am one of those people, so I totally get it.

As for me, I'm seriously considering breaking each Paranormal Washington novel into 3 books, making 4 books 12....For Example:
Fatal Retribution: 400 page Urban Fantasy.
Because of the ebb and flow of the action it brakes up nicely into 3 books.

DARKNESS: book 1. 132 pages
BASTION FATAL: book 2. 121 pages
RETRIBUTION: book 3. 146 pages

They'd each make quick juicy reads alone, rather than a lengthy meal, but I'd have to do a bit of rewriting to be sure each section is a stand alone novella. IDK, so many people have already read the biggens...They're sort of out there, on their own now. I think the best thing to do is focus on my next project.

On second thought, I don't have to make the larger novels unavailable. I can simply publish the smaller versions along side the bigger ones. Everybody loves options! But again, I need to focus on my current projects....Man, I really hate the business side of being an author. I love research and writing and talking with fans...I can absolutely go without marketing and sales. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sunday, September 7, 2014


I've just published the 4th Paranormal Washington novel, Deadly Encounters. The fifth is the last book in the series, working title Toxic Bliss. But before all that jazz, I was hoping to write a couple short stories. The first short story is called The Artist; a dark...IDK, let's call it a thriller. I'm not entirely sure what genre it would fall under. It's about a woman falling in love with a serial killer. The second book is yet undecided between three books I have started already:

Cana: about a cannibalistic whore.

Styx: about a gargoyle living in Hades during a rebellion against the statues quo.

And the last one, actually a spin off from the Paranormal Washington series, a collection of side stories about some of the character's adventures between the books. These short stories would answer some questions for the readers, questions like:

  • What exactly did Nil do in Canada? He left Washington State a suicidal self hating fella, and came back as a man on a mission. I think people might be interested in seeing that transition. 
  • Raina mentions a few times how often Alistair had saved her life while she was on the job, and I'm fairly sure people would LOVE to actually read some of these adventures.
  • How did Katie become a Hunter? When we left her at the end of the 3rd book, Grave Omen, she had the desire but Raina was the only one who believed in her. But, with Raina dead, how did she prove herself to the powers that be?
All of this I should be planning, and yet...and yet I can't stop thinking about the 5th and final book, Toxic Bliss. It really wants to be written. It's alive in my head! Why is it so hard for me to stop writing Paranormal Washington and switch gears...Of course the the compilation of short stories for Paranormal Washington  is kind of cheating on the whole, let me write something else for a change...thing

Monday, September 1, 2014


Chapter One: Crimson Angel

She didn’t smell as bad as I thought a dead body would smell.  She smelt of bleach and a strong musky perfume; the cheap kind that some women seem to bathe themselves in.  She was hanging on a crucifix that was nailed to a wooden platform on wheels.  Wrists and feet were nailed in place.  I was eye level with her stomach, where all her insides were coming out of a perfectly carved whole in her abdomen.  Her intestines were draped around her hips, like a gory scarlet skirt.  Her bottle-blond hair was expertly placed to hide her bare breasts.  Meat from her back seemed to have been pulled out in ribbons and attached to her outstretched arms, like ruby-red angel wings.  I’m guessing that the killer used lacquer to keep the cherry-red shine of her insides, painting them here and there to keep with his aesthetic.  I couldn’t see her face beyond the red painted mask, but the whole image was breathtaking.
When I reached a hand up to lift the girl’s mask off her face Karl, the head librarian, screamed, “Gabby!” 
I looked back at the few people standing at the entrance to the aisle, and those beyond it.  Some people couldn’t look at the body, some just cried in the background, and still some couldn’t stop looking.  But no one was within ten feet of the girl, no one but me.  I was captivated by her the moment I ran into the large aisle, horrified, but captivated at the same time.  The screaming brought me here. This section in the public library was designated for religious literature.  I’d never stepped a foot in it until now. 
“Gabby, step away from the—step away.  The police will be here soon,” Karl said. 
He was right.  Touching the body was stupid.  I backed away from the girl slowly, rubbing my sweaty hands on my jeans, but I stared after her.  The word breathtaking kept coming to mind.
“What do you think?” asked Shelly.  She was a library regular, like me.  We were both professional students, studying our passions to no real foreseeable end.  Her passion lied in history and world religions.  She was the one who found the body.  It was her screams that brought me to it, along with the rest of the library patrons, employees, and singular guard, Chuck.
Chuck was standing at the entrance of the library waiting for the police and making sure nobody left.  The police asked him to do this, and in a bombing voice he announced said request over the library intercom shortly after the body was found.  There wasn’t that many people at the library at ten in the morning on Saturday, but we few were now prisoners of circumstance.    
“She was killed, cleaned and posed like a sculpture, a work of art,” I said quietly.  The last of the people in the aisle walked away, leaving us alone.  Shelly’s hazel eyes narrowed on me.  Her top lip was curled up, like she smelled something awful.  I sniffed the air, but I didn’t smell anything save for the bleach and perfume. “What is it?  Did I forget to brush my teeth this morning?”  I hid my mouth with my hands, until Shelly shook her head and rolled her eyes.  I gave her a raised brow.
“Art?” she asked.  Her words were hushed, but her tone was aggressive.  “The cross, the angel wings—clearly this is an attack on Christianity.”
I looked at the girl’s body again.  She was nailed to a cross, and her insides were strewn about her, making her a gruesome angel.  She was even placed in the religious section of the library.  But it didn’t feel like an attack on anything.  It felt like a showing, a display of something the killer was proud of. 
“A lot of religions have angels and crucified gods or heroes in them,” I said.
Shelly shook her head, looking at me and not the body.  “Jesus was crucified.”
I shrugged.  “You asked my opinion, I gave it.  The killer may have used religion as his inspiration, but I don’t think religion was the reason this woman was killed.”
“That makes absolutely no sense,” chimed in a white hair man in an argyle sweater.  “Obviously the killer was a Satanist, and she was his human sacrifice. Poor soul.”  
It was a drive-by comment.  The man made his thoughts known and exited stage left without waiting for my rebuttal, which was, “That’s a ridiculous suggestion, based on religious bias.  How does this in any way resemble the work of a Satanist?”   But I was talking to myself.  Shelly left the conversation with the man, and I was left standing in the aisle alone.  I looked out at the library.  A handful of people were sitting at a long table.  Most people were quietly consoling each other.  Everyone was talking in their usual library voices.  As if anyone was reading a book.  It was then that I noticed the first suspicious look in someone’s eyes.  A woman looked at me from the safety of her husband’s arms.  It was the same look Shelly had given me, as though she smelt something awful.  I didn’t know her, so I shrugged and looked back at the body.
“Gabby, Gabrielle,” said Karl from behind me.  I looked over my shoulder at him.  Karl was in his early thirties, but he didn’t seem to age much after hitting seventeen.  He had a perpetual boyish charm about him.  His bright blue eyes looked out at me from between the puffy shoulders of two tall crime scene techs in white jump suites.  “Come with me,” he said.
I stepped aside and let the techs pass me, though it was unnecessary.  The aisle was big enough for the four of us.  Without a word, one tech began snapping pictures, while the other wrote notes on his clipboard.  I wondered how many crime scenes they’d processed, and if this one was more outrageous or gruesome than the others.  By their blank faces and relaxed manner, I’d guess they’d seen worse.  I’d seen worse too, in pictures only.  You see a lot of grizzly crime pictures studying serial killers. That was my passion. I longed to understand the mind of a killer. The act of killing, the reasoning behind it. It interested me like nothing else. I watched all the crime shows, all the cop movies. ‘Silence of the Lambs’ was my favorite, of course.
“What is it?” I asked aloud, deciding that whispering seemed silly.
Karl led me into the next section of the library without a word.  We found ourselves in the child’s section, surrounded by bright colors and miniature furniture.  He walked me deep into the open area and looked at me with the kind eyes I’d come to expect from him over the years.  I smiled and he frowned.
“What?” I asked again.
He looked down, searching for words maybe, and then back up at me.  His face was more guarded somehow.  I wasn’t used to that.  Karl was an open book, always ready to talk or dish out bits of wisdom.  Seeing him look at me cautiously made my stomach sink.
“Now that’s the reaction you should have had fifteen minutes ago,” he said quietly.
“What reaction?” 
He raised one eye-brow, giving me a flat look.  “Uncomfortable, Gabby, sick to your stomach, not curious, not enraptured.  It’s a dead body for Pete’s sake.”
I looked at him with a tilted head, my brows pressed together in confusion.  He wasn’t making any sense.  Killers, serial killers were my passion, their motives, and their personalities.  Their crimes are their personal demons manifesting themselves in the most horrific way imaginable.  The crimson angle in the next section said so much about the killer.  “But—you know how I feel about murder, murderers in particular.  You’ve always known.  What reaction did you expect?”
“I don’t know, maybe I did expect curiosity, but do you know what people are saying out there?  They’re saying that you enjoyed looking at the body.  They’re saying you could have done this, Gabby.  That’s what they’re going to tell the police.” 
He entered my personal bubble, my two foot comfy-space radius that no one was allowed to enter, not even my mother.  I backed away and he grabbed my arm to stop me. 
“Let go Karl.”  He brought his face within inches of mine.  It was a kissable closeness.  I could smell his toothpaste on his breath, the faint sweet smell of cologne or aftershave.  I equated that smell with a feeling of gratitude, as it usually lingered throughout the library in his wake.  Denoting a well organized bookshelf, clean tables, or freshly brewed coffee.  “Karl?”
“The police are going to question you.  They might even ask me for your check-out history.  They’ll be suspicious.  What are you going to tell them?” 
What would I tell the police?  I thought for a moment, staring down at our shoes.  He wore highly polished black dress shoes, which matched his style perfectly.  I was wearing my usual faux leather black flats.  Slowly my lips grew into a long red smile.
“What are you thinking?” he asked, bewilderment making his face seem uncertain of what expression it should hold.  I looked up at him, and I knew I was positively beaming with joy, no anticipation, no pure elation!

Chapter Two: Good Cop/Bad Cop

Karl was totally right.  I found myself sitting in one of the library’s many soundproofed conference rooms with two men.  I had expected police, but what I got was FBI agents in snazzy suites that made even Karl look underdressed.  They had a list of books I’d checked out with such titles as: Criminal Minds, The Profile of a Killer, and my personal favorite, One-Hundred and One Ways to Kill.  Was it damning? I didn’t think so, but they did.  The agent in the black suite, Kelly, slid the list across the table with a strong sure hand, as though it proved something, as though they had caught me red-handed.
“Can you explain your recent selection of reading material, Mss. Locke?” said the agent in the blue suite.  He was standing.  I guess he was supposed to be intimidating or something.  I didn’t catch his name, if he gave it at all.
I shrugged.  “I’ve been studying serial killers since I was a teenager.”
“Why?” asked Kelly.  He seemed calmer, nicer.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say they were actually doing the whole bad-cop/good-cop thing.  I had to smile at that.
“I don’t know.  I guess it started in my sophomore year of high school.  I took a class in psychology.  I remember being told that humans are the only animals that kill their own species.  I’m not sure if that’s true.  I don’t study animals, but it was that that made me first curious about what would drive one man to kill another.  Usually its jealousy or economic gain, mundane reasons like that.  Serial killers, however, their reasons defy logic.  They might kill a person based on their age, or hair color, or career.  The man that killed the girl on the cross certainly wasn’t driven by anything we could relate to.”   I was smiling, because for the first time I was discussing my passion with people who might appreciate it.
The agents spoke over each other.  Kelly asked, “What makes you think it was a man?” While the man in blue asked, “What makes you think this was a serial killer?”
I looked at both of them in turn like they were being foolish, but their eyes were trained on me.  They really meant to get their answers.  “Come on guys.”  I sighed and relaxed into my plastic chair.  I looked at the agent in blue, still standing, “You wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t a serial killer.  The FBI shows up for only a handful of reasons, and a woman found dead in a library isn’t one of them.”  I turned to Kelly, “And even if we overlook the fact that it would have taken a lot of muscle to push or pull that platform into its location, women serial killers are rare.  They usually kill children, man and the elderly in low profile ways, like poison or suffocation.  I can tell you something else about this man.  He’s probably white, with above average intelligence.  He’s probably well liked by others, a kind seemingly thoughtful man.  This library is important to him somehow, so he’s probably a current or former employee, or a regular.  He’s showing off, obviously. His audience may have been well planned too, so he may have a connection with someone here.”
Kelly nodded, but the other agent smiled and finally sat down.  It wasn’t a happy smile though.  “So, we shouldn’t suspect you.  Is that what you’re saying?” he said. 
I shrugged; I do that a lot.  “Do what you want.  You’ll just be wasting your time.  Meanwhile your killer will be out there, killing and mutilating another person.”
Kelly nodded rapidly while flipping though a thin stack of papers in front of him.  They were statements written by all the people in the library this morning, including my own.  He found the report he was looking for and quickly read it under his breath before looking back up at me, his eyes narrowed, holding a question for me.
“Someone stated that you called the crime scene, ‘art.’  Is that how you see it?”
“No.  That’s how the killer sees it.  I think he sees himself as an artist, and the woman’s body was his medium.  If he’s a serial killer than there’s more out there somewhere.  More pieces to his collection than just his…crimson angel.”

Chapter Three: Coffee drip 

It’s strange how the air smells so much better outside when you’ve spent too much time inside?  The air outside the library smelled of rain and freshly cut grass.  I closed my eyes to the partly covered sunshine and took in long deep breaths, and let them out slowly.  I listened to the other library patrons walk down the steps in front of me, but I stood and waited for Karl.  He was talking to a police officer.
“Just leave these keys in the book drop slot by the door when you’re all ready to lock up.  I have another copy at home,” Karl said to the police woman.  She nodded and he placed his keys in her hand.  And even though it wasn’t all that cold outside, Karl slid his heavy black wool coat on as he walked toward me. He buttoned it all the way up, nice a snugly to his long neck.
“Are you waiting for me?” he asked.
“Yes.”  I stared at my feet as we descended the cement stairs to the sidewalk.  “I wanted to ask you how someone could have gotten that platform inside the building without you or Chuck seeing it.”
He nodded, “You and the FBI both.”  He paused for a moment, looking at me with a long smile and questioning eyes.  “Do you want to get some coffee?” he asked.
I wanted to say no, but I couldn’t be the cause of a frown on his face and sleep well at night.  ‘Yeah, sure.’
“Yes.”  He laughed with more joy than I thought was necessary and we made our way to his car.
My hands were hot, almost too hot as they hugged my pumpkin spice latte. T’was that time of year for damn near pumpkin everything, and for that and many other reasons I loved every exquisite day, hour, minute and second of the Fall season.
Karl was still buttoned up tight in his coat as he stood at the counter. He was waiting for his order with a straight back and an easy-going face. I couldn’t help but question his intelligence at that moment. I’d always admired the man up until the moment he invited me out for coffee and ordered a bottle of diet coke and a breakfast sandwich left over from the morning. That’s what he was waiting on. Apparently it takes two minutes to make a large latte and four to heat an old croissant that’s been cut in half and stuffed with cheese, egg product and sausage.
“I thought you liked coffee,” I said as he finally took a seat opposite me at our raised table in the café.
“I do, but I wanted something cold and with bite,” he said thoughtfully.
“It’s past noon,” I said eyeing his breakfast.
“It’s the most important meal of the day. Why not have it twice?”
I knew that was supposed to be cute or funny, so I smiled at him before looking away.
The café he took me to was not particularly unique or charming in any way. The dirty walls were smothered in framed pictures of cartoonish coffee cups. The small kind that no one uses anymore. The furniture was worn and grimy. The music was too loud, and being that it was recent pop hits, it didn’t match the old rundown mystique the owner was obviously going for. 
Actually, Karl and I were two of the few patrons in the café, and I was beginning to regret my decision to accept his offer. I mean, it was always obvious to me that he was attracted to me, and while I appreciated him; his particularly, his tidiness and his helpfulness in my studies, I didn’t necessary feel the need to physically or emotionally attach myself to a male—or female. Not at this time. I’ve told him as much before. Perhaps the exposure to high levels of stress hormones I experienced earlier impaired my judgment.
I shook my head and felt so much like a fool. I let myself down and I lead Karl on.
“I know this is just coffee, Karl. But I want you to know I’m not interested in having sex with you or anyone.”
“What?” he said. He looked confused, maybe hurt. I felt awful.
“Karl, Karl,” I said patting his arm exactly three times, not lingering too long between pats and certainly not making them too quick either. Being comforting is tricky business, especially when the person you’re consoling wants your sex organs to meet in an intimate fashion. It’s a precarious balance between cold and hot. “My decision to withhold fornication from you in particular isn’t based on your outward appearance, your intelligence or our personality compatibility. I’m simply uninspired by the thought of having a man penetrate my most defenseless orifice with his most filthy empennage.”
I tried reading his reaction as I spoke, but he surprised me with a curt laugh. I felt confused at first but the lingering hilarity on his face made me feel embarrassed or hurt or something equally disagreeable.
I stood from my seat, coffee in hand. “Thank you for the coffee, Karl, but I think I should go.” But when I moved to leave he grabbed my hand. I looked back at him with an unspoken question.
“Stay,” he said, and just then a man wearing a mask, the same white mask of comedy that the crimson angel had been wearing, walked into the café pushing something on wheels that was covered by a red silk sheet.
The man wore all black. The only thing I could tell from him, besides that he had the build of a man, was that he was close to seven feet tall, overweight by at least eighty pounds, but strong. He had very poor postures and favored his right foot over his left, which turned inward. Something about his stature and presence seemed familiar.
He pulled the sheet off whatever he’d been pushing and looked directly at me. My eyes lingered on him, trying to read from him anything and everything of any significance. I could hear screaming from around me, and I was sure he’d just revealed yet another masterpiece, but I’d have time to look at that later. He, on the other hand, wasn’t going to stay. He turned and ran out the door, pivoting on his right foot, dropping the sheet and slamming himself into the door.  The door had a large sign that read “pull” yet he pushed and let out a frustrate growl. The mistaken pull rather than push put him at average intelligence, but the aggressive response to the mistake dropped him to below average. I frowned as he ran down the street.
It was only when the man was out of sight that I could hear Karl calling my name, or at least, calling me Gabby.  What it really so hard for him to call me Gabrielle? I gave him an annoyed glare.
“I hate that nick name. Gabby,” I exhaled with a role of my eyes. I let my eyes fall from the role onto the artwork before us.
“There’s another dead woman!” Karl yelled at me.  “I’m going to call Agent Kelly and Fields,” he said before pulling out his phone and stepping away from the small group staring or pretending not to stare at the body before us.
I didn’t set my coffee down as I approached the woman. I sipped it carefully, enjoying the pumpkin flavor, artificial as it may have been. Loaded with high fructose corn syrup, no doubt about that. What I did doubt was if what was pouring out of that woman was actually coffee.
I kneeled down. The woman was lying face down pm a glass table. She was nude, but her sex organs were covered by skin, artfully pulled back, draped just so, much like an apron around her waist. What wasn’t covered were her breast, larger, they were left to hand down like cow utters as black liquid fell into large cups below, as if she was actually lactating coffee. There were many empty cups under her and I grabbed one with dainty fingers.
“Oh my god! What are you doing?” shouted a man from his seat where he sat horrified.
I gave him only a blank stare before I quickly replaced the half full coffee cup under her left breast with the empty one in my hand. I brought the cup to my nose and the woman behind the countered gave a loud gasp. Maybe she thought I was going to drink it. What a sick minded individual… I sniffed the liquid.
“It’s coffee!” I yelled out with a smile. No one seemed as excited by that discovery as I was. I looked at Karl, but his face scared me. He looked at me with an uneasy awe about him. I set the cup down and awkwardly took my seat at the raised table. The FBI would be here soon and I was sure they’d like to know how I managed to be at both crime scenes. I’d like to know some things, too.