Publisher: Quad City Press (April 22, 2014)
Category: YA, Psychological Thriller, Paranormal Romance
ISBN: 13: 978-0982444825
Tour Dates: June 23-August 1, 2014
Available in: Print and ebook, 220 Pages
Recently named a “PageTurner” by Shelf Unbound magazine, NABE Pinnacle Thriller winner, an E-Lit Gold Medal winner (Horror), and two time Silver Feather (IWPA) winner, The Color of Evil series details the adventures of a young man (Tad McGreevy) with the power to detect auras around others (Tetrachromatic Super Vision) and to relive the crimes of those with “the color of evil” in his dreams.
Khaki = Killer, the third book in the Color of Evil Series, picks up where Red Is for Rage left off, answering the question, “What happened to Melody (Harris) Carpenter?”
Readers of Red Is for Rage, [Book #2 in The Color of Evil series], will remember that Melody was involved in a rescheduled UNI (University of Northern Iowa) football game, cheering for the Sky High Eagles. Rushed to the hospital with injuries suffered in a fall from atop the human pyramid (formed by fellow cheerleaders Heather, Kelly, Janice, Angie, and Jenny), Melody is hospitalized and fighting for her life as Khaki = Killer opens.
The budding romance between Janice and Stevie continues to grow more serious, but Janice’s parents oppose her relationship with the son of the man who shot and killed so many townsfolk at the Homecoming game. There are more revelations about Earl Scranton’s motives, and other romances develop (Tad and Jenny; Charlie and Andrea).
When Heather Crompton and Kelly Carter mysteriously disappear, the tension in town ratchets to a fever pitch. The entire town is involved in the search. Retired police officer Charlie Chandler reorganizes the rag-tag team that helped find Stevie Scranton and bring him back to Cedar Falls, Iowa.
In the background lurks Michael Clay (aka, Pogo), still searching for Tad McGreevy, still hoping to permanently silence “the boy who can see the future.”
Tensions run high and the stakes run even higher in KHAKI = KILLER, Book #3 in THE COLOR OF EVIL series.
Connie (Corcoran) Wilson (MS + 30) graduated from the University of Iowa and Western Illinois University, with additional study at Northern Illinois, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago. She taught writing at six Iowa/Illinois colleges and has written for five newspapers and seven blogs, including Associated Content (now owned by Yahoo) which named her its 2008 Content Producer of the Year.
She is a member of ITW (International Thriller Writers) which awarded her its Silver Feather Award in 2012, MWA (Midwest Writers Association), AWP (American Writing Program) and MWC (Midwest Writing Center), which named her its Writer of the Year in 2010. She has won numerous E-Lit awards, a NABE Pinnacle award, an ALMA (American Literary Merit Award), and an IWPA Silver Feather.
Her stories and interviews with writers like David Morrell, Joe Hill, Kurt Vonnegut, Frederik Pohl, William F. Nolan, Anne Perry, R. Barri Flowers and Jon Land have appeared online and in numerous journals. Her work has won prizes from “Whim’s Place Flash Fiction,” “Writer’s Digest” (Screenplay) and she will have 12 books out by the end of the year. Connie reviewed film and books for the Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa) for 12 years and wrote humor columns and conducted interviews for the (Moline, Illinois) Daily Dispatch.
Connie was a presenter at the Spellbinders Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii over Labor Day. She now blogs for 7 blogs, is a Featured Contributor to Yahoo, and comments on movies, television, politics, writing and anything else that interests her both on Yahoo and on her own blog, www.WeeklyWilson.com.
Connie lives in East Moline, Illinois with husband Craig and cat Lucy, and in Chicago, Illinois, where her son, Scott and daughter-in-law Jessica and their five-year-old twins Elise and Ava reside.
Her daughter, Stacey, a graduate of Belmont University in Nashville, is in training in Dallas to become a Southwest Airlines stewardess.
Connie on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ConnieCWilson
Connie on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Connie-Corcoran-Wilson/275020829241869
Connie on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/conniecwilson/
Excerpt From Khaki=Killer
Chapter One: December 31, 2004
No New Year’s Eve Party This Year
It was early on New Year’s Eve day, a Friday, when they disconnected the heart-lung machine that was keeping Melody Harris Carpenter alive. A fierce internal struggle broke out between and among the Harris and Carpenter families.
Some family members were in denial. Sean, Melody’s husband of less than two weeks, and Harold and Ruth Harris, Melody’s parents, insisted that everything would be fine.
Doctors appeared and disappeared. They explained the probability that Melody was brain dead. Sean wasn’t ready to hear it. Harold Harris wasn’t receptive, either. Ruth Harris appeared incapable of hearing anyone or anything. She was lost in a fog of maternal concern.
“She’s gonna’ be fine,” Sean repeated to anyone within earshot. “She just needs time. She’ll wake up and be as good as new.”
“You’re right, Sean,” Harold Harris echoed. Harold’s liver-spotted hands shook slightly. He was sweaty. Unshaven. The happy tuxedo-clad father who had given Melody away at the Methodist Church thirteen days before was gone. That happy man had vanished. In his place was this sad, broken creature. Harold kept patting his wife Ruth’s arm. Melody’s mother looked distraught. Drawn. Weary.
Harold spoke. A husky almost-whisper. Intensive care in a hospital was foreign to him. The antithesis of everything normal and happy. Every hour on the hour another gravely ill patient, praying for help, entered, hoping to be saved.
One young African-American patient entered with a police escort, screaming obscenities. He was handcuffed to the gurney. Harold had seen a lot of medical shows on television, but he had never set foot in a hospital, himself. Almost fifty years old, of solid Swedish stock, Harold was born on the family farm. He had never even visited a hospital intensive care unit.
Harold Harris hoped he’d live and die in the same farmhouse that had been in his family for one hundred years. He loved his wife and only child with an abiding passion. His heart was breaking. Harold would not let the idea that Melody might not live enter his mind.
Melody will be all right, he thought. She just took a bad fall. She just got a bad bump on the head. She’ll come out of it. So will the baby.
Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter stood by, saying little. They looked grim. Their silence spoke volumes.
Each time Sean would say something dismissive about the severity of Melody’s injuries, his mother would shoot “the glance” at Sean’s father. They knew. They wanted to believe in miracles. But they knew. They weren’t naive trusting souls.
It was as though the bottom had dropped out of Harold and Ruth’s lives. Their little girl lay there: a small, fragile doll, fighting for her life surrounded by the antiseptic smells and sterile images of Cedar Falls Memorial Hospital.
Before Melody was born, Ruth Harris suffered three miscarriages, each one more heart-breaking than the last. “Maybe I’m not meant to be a mother,” Ruth said to Harold after the second time. “God must not want me to have children.” She sobbed as her dream for a family died.
Harold’s heart broke, too. “Nonsense, Ruth. It will all work out,” Harold answered reassuringly, sounding officious. This was the role he had chosen to play in the drama that was so important to him and even more important to the woman he loved.
“You’ll be a wonderful mother.” And, eventually, Ruth was.
Premature at birth, Melody was so small that the doctors thought she might not make it. She weighed only three pounds. But Melody was a fighter. She survived. Only four feet eight inches, she was a small ray of perpetual sunshine in Harold and Ruth Harrises lives.
Tiny Melody, the four-foot-eight-inch dynamo whose fall from atop the human pyramid at the UNI Dome game on December 28th had led her to this hospital bed lay motionless. Her long brown hair spilled across the white hospital pillow, a chocolate brown contrast to the stark whiteness of the hospital linen. Unconscious. Tubes and masks and the heart-lung ventilator making noises that terrified her father.
Everybody liked Melody. She was petite, dark-haired and endearing in the same way that an enthusiastic puppy or kitten tugged at your heartstrings. When there was a trophy for Miss Congeniality, Melody always won it. A wonderful gymnast and all-around athlete, despite her small size, her plans after high school had always been to marry Sean Carpenter. She had loved Sean since sixth grade. Sean imagined the same future.
Neither Sean nor Melody would be class valedictorian. The academic side of school had never been easy for either of them. In fact, Melody was struggling to pass the accounting class she was taking to prepare for a career in the Carpenter family business. She also had trouble in Mrs. Anderson’s English class. It was important that she pass with at least a “C.” She needed to keep her grades up to be eligible to take part in extra-curricular activities.
When Melody told her parents and Sean’s parents that she was pregnant, both families expressed regret that the couple had not yet finished high school, even though they were second semester seniors. But they were happy about the baby. The newborn would be the Harrises first grandchild. The Carpenters, who had three older sons, had five grandchildren, but that didn’t diminish their joy at welcoming Melody and the baby into the Carpenter fold. Melody would be the daughter the Carpenters never had. Instead, Paul and Linda were parents of four boys: Brian, Blake, Kenneth and Sean.
Neurosurgeons and specialists were unanimous in their opinion: Melody would never wake up. She was a young, healthy girl, but she was a dead girl in all the ways that count. The baby inside her was only six months along. Doctors were fighting to save the unborn child. The reality was that Melody was being kept alive so that her baby could be given a fighting chance to live. Harsh as it sounded, Melody was reduced to a human incubator.
“She looks like she’s just sleeping,” Ruth said to Harold. There was a tremor in Ruth’s voice as she spoke.
“I know, Honey. I know.” More patting of Ruth’s arm, which trembled slightly.
“How can they be right that she’s gone? How can that be right?” Her eyes searched his.
As she asked this question of her worried husband, Ruth’s voice rose in a plaintive wail. She appeared disoriented.
The Carpenters, Sean’s parents, were not as blind to reality as the Harrises. Paul and Linda Carpenter were grounded in reality.
Part of the reason Sean could not or would not accept the bad news from the medical team was his life-long conditioning at his father’s knee. “Don’t always trust what you think you are seeing,” Paul Carpenter would tell his youngest son. Many times, Sean’s father, a savvy businessman after years spent running Carpenters’ Corners, had cautioned Sean about life.
“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” he’d say. “Trust your instincts. Don’t let people lead you down the garden path. Trust no one.”
Sean had not been present when the fall occurred. He kept asking, again and again, “What happened?” An old refrain from a nineties Sublime song summed up Sean’s obsession: “Got to find a reason things went wrong.”
Sean had been minding the store at Carpenters Corners when the accident occurred. Again and again Janice Kramer described Melody’s fall from atop the human pyramid at the UNI Dome. It did no good. Sean was not listening objectively. He had married the girl of his dreams—his girlfriend since sixth grade. He was over-the-moon anticipating the birth of their first child. Everything was falling into place in Sean Carpenter’s life.
Until it wasn’t.
Sean could not accept the fact that his wife and unborn child were in peril.
Melody can’t die. She can’t! We’ve only just begun our lives together. The baby isn’t even due for three more months! What kind of God would let Melody die? What kind of heartless Supreme Being would let my baby die?
Sean shook his head to clear it of even the possibility of such random cruelty to two innocent beings. He felt so helpless. Powerless. It was as though he were caught in a strong current, being swept toward a precipice. He would surely die if he drifted over the edge. But the current was too strong. He was being pulled ever closer to disaster.
Therefore, Sean tried to project complete confidence. Melody would wake up at any moment. He cleared his throat before uttering another positive sentiment.
“She’ll be her old self in no time. You can’t keep Melody down. You all know what she’s like. She’ll shake this off. She’ll be as good as new.” Sean’s voice cracked as he uttered the last line. He left the room to get a Coke from the machine at the end of the hall. Shoulders hunched. Black-and-orange letter jacket oddly incongruous in the somber atmosphere of Melody’s hospital room.
Sean clung to hope by refusing to accept reality. He might as well have put his fingers in his ears like a two-year-old and made noises to drown out the experts’ opinions. He didn’t want to hear the truth. He couldn’t handle the truth. He didn’t want to anticipate the truth. Because the truth hurts. The truth can even kill. What doesn’t kill you doesn’t make you stronger— it leaves you broken.
Sean’s parents, after hearing the doctors explain Melody’s injury and seeing the electro-encephalogram’s flat brain waves, had other thoughts. The Carpenters hoped that Sean would come to grips with reality. They hoped that the Harrises, too, would come around—regain their common sense. Accept what was happening. Admit what had already happened.
“They have to know,” Linda Carpenter said to her husband, an urgent undercurrent in her voice, holding Paul’s blue eyes in a steady gaze. “The Harrises and Sean have to know that she’s gone.” Linda’s own china blue eyes filled with unshed tears.
“No, they don’t,” Paul responded. He looked grim, and he felt worse. “They don’t want to face it. It’s too awful to admit. They want what was. Nobody can make things the way they were. It’s too late. All we can hope for now is that the doctors can save the baby.” Paul’s left hand rubbed the top of the rough wintery dried skin on his right hand, an old nervous habit that surfaced when he was stressed. The harsh winter was taking its toll. Sub-zero temperatures just added to the grief as the future spiraled out of control.
“How awful!” said Linda. “My heart hurts. I just feel sick.”
She sank into a hospital chair, the dark brown leather cushions matching her own bleak mood. “Sean loves her so much. He always has.” A quick smile as Linda glanced with pride at her tall, blonde son.
Sean was a good-looking young man, six feet tall with cornflower blue eyes. A ready smile. A lop-sided grin. But there was no smile left in Sean now. He was a husk, exuding inauthentic confidence. Telling everyone not to give up hope, when hope had given up on him.
There’d be no return from the oblivion that a persistent vegetative state represented. Brain death. The worst of all possible diagnoses.
The Carpenters understood the risks if Melody delivered Sean’s baby too early. The longer the baby boy could survive, in utero, the better the little guy’s chances. Paul Carpenter told his wife Linda under his breath, in the hallway during a much-needed break, “The Harrises should know better than anyone the risks of a baby that’s born too soon after all they went through having Melody. Losing those three babies.”
Paul shook his head, contemplating the tragedy of three infants who didn’t make it. Hoping against hope that his unborn grandchild wasn’t about to become the fourth casualty that Harold and Ruth Harris would have to endure.
When the heart-lung machine was disconnected, would Melody breathe on her own? That was the question of the hour. The machine was disconnected at one p.m. on New Year’s Eve Day. Melody’s heart kept right on beating. Her first breath was ragged. Reedy. But she continued to breathe unaided. Melody was an eighteen-year-old girl in good health. Her final gift to her unborn son—simply breathing— would buy him time. It was almost as though, despite her comatose state, she understood that her labored respiration, taken without a machine’s assistance, would help her child to survive.
Linda and Paul Carpenter were adults, but Sean was a newly-minted husband of only fourteen days. Eighteen years old. He wasn’t listening to voices of gloom and doom. If he ignored the dire warnings, things would improve. Things would get better. How could they get worse?
They have to, thought Sean. They have to. How will I live without Melody? How will I care for a child by myself?
Four days had gone by since the game at the UNI Dome on December 28th. Melody’s family had immediately shared the news of her pregnancy with her doctors. Tests were run on the fetus. Melody was twenty-eight weeks along. She conceived the child while celebrating the last day of summer school: June 14th.
Sean remembered the day well.