A Killer's Field - a fictional YA based on the Texas Killing Fields by Riley Blake/Susan Smith Alvis

A Killer's Field - a fictional YA based on the Texas Killing Fields book promotion Riley Blake/Susan Smith Alvis

When Kristen McMurray discovers she'll spend a Halloween date in the horrifying Texas killing fields, she doesn't exactly throw on a miniskirt and pack a bag with high hopes of enjoying an unusual evening. Once she discovers that she'll hunt for clues to solve cold cases, she musters up the courage to traipse around the deadly fields, but soon realizes that her first instincts were correct. Rummaging around for clues isn't what it seems and before the night ends, this spunky young adult will come face to face with her greatest fears.



Chapter One

I’m about as flabbergasted as my Dobermans were when I walked outside to feed them prime rib and a vulture swept down and stole the meat straight from the pan. The event occurred last week but I can still picture their wide eyes as they stretched their necks upward and barked at the heavens. They were in terrible shock, poor things. After the clever bird escaped, all they could do was stand there and pant, foam forming in the corners of their mouths.

Okay, so I’m not panting or wiping drool from my chin. I am, however, stunned.

“Well, what do you think?” Dennison asks, backing away from his pickup. “Say yes, Kristen. It’ll be a lifetime experience. One you’ll remember forever.”

“What makes you think we’ll live to later share our experiences?”

“You’re so dramatic,” he says, returning to work on his truck. “Most women would see this trip for what it is—an overnight getaway.”

“Visiting the Texas Killing Fields, on Halloween no less, is not my idea of a romantic weekend.” I stare at his back. “Where will we stay?”

“I’ll pack a tent and a sleeping bag.”

Wonderful. For a minute, I consider his idea of snuggling inside confined spaces. That is until a body bag comes to mind. After all, those fields symbolize decades of horror.

“I’ll pack supplies. Don’t worry. I’ll handle all the arrangements.” He glances over his shoulder and waggles his brows. He may think he’s cute, but he isn’t. The gesture makes him look a little sinister.

Maybe I should check the bed of his truck for knives and other terrifying weapons. Perhaps he has a chainsaw somewhere. Scary movie props fill my head.

I’m more of a candles and candy kind of gal. I like picnics in broad daylight or sitting by a campfire in my backyard. He knows this and chooses to ignore it.

“Besides, you’ve always said romance starts with a solid effort and good planning. I thought you’d be excited.”

“Describe romantic,” I drawl, gnawing on my thumbnail. As far as I’m concerned his little proposed road trip is about to unfold as the date from hell, considering most folks would describe me as the biggest chicken this side of the Mississippi. And yes, we’re talking wild wings flapping and the whole cockadoodledo.

“It’ll be fun,” he assures me, tossing aside his tool. He takes my hand in his and stares longingly into my eyes. “Look at it like this. We’re making a difference.”

How? I do not know and do not ask.

“You wanted to do something special this Halloween. I was only thinking of you.”

Sometimes men are so transparent. Little boys pretending they’re all grown up? Ten times worse.

Dennison might as well be draped in cellophane. I can almost picture him covered in plastic wrap, a twisted expression scribbled across his face as he stares back at me.

There’s a creepy image.

I’m beginning to think my grandmother was right when she said, “Dennison is a weird child, honey, but who knows maybe one day he’ll be good with the sack.”

At the time, I thought Mimi had a Freudian slip and meant to say, in the sack, but I’m beginning to think she had it right the first time. Perhaps Denny plans to shackle my feet, bind my hands, and leave my body parts in a potato sack.

Lately, he’s been spending a lot of time online in weird chat rooms. This might not seem unusual except for the fact that Denny doesn’t surf the net. When I started hanging out with him, he didn’t even know how to turn on a computer.

“Why the Killing Fields?”

He shrugs. “I think it’s the perfect place for a romantic Halloween holiday.”

“Sure it is if you’re Freddie Krueger.” While I’m on a roll, I’m tempted to ask Denny if his middle name is Jason. I should inquire about a possible mask he might have tucked away in the glove box of his old Ford truck, a vehicle that will most likely break down on our way to League City, or worse, quit on us right in the middle of those notorious fields.

“Come on, honeybun. We both watched the documentary about the Texas killings. Don’t you think it would be interesting to explore the area? Maybe we’ll pack a picnic and take along a case of beer.”

“Fabulous,” I say, trying to picture the setting in which we’d choose to spread out our blanket and pop open our first brew. “Any chance the upcoming holiday occurs on Friday the thirteenth?”

He looks at me dumbfounded. “Kristen, Halloween falls on the thirty-first.”

“You don’t say.” I can’t push aside the sarcasm. I cluck. Chalk one up for the man in black, the fellow who apparently missed the part of how a thirty plus year span of documented unsolved murders tallied in the dozens.

And my boyfriend wants to visit the fields.

Perhaps he already imagines the two of us hand-in-hand, walking between tall blades of grass, and plucking the remnants of yellow crime tape from a low branch blocking our treacherous path. The original theme song from Halloween thrums in my eardrums.

“Let me guess. You’ve already played this out in your head.” Lowering my voice and trying to speak with a rasp, I say, “There’s a scary creature lurking in the shadows, a sledgehammer thrown high above his shoulder and right before he bears down on the tool, swiping me off the face of this earth, you step between me and this evil symbol of danger.” I pause and force out ragged breaths. “After you beat him to a pulp, you grab my hand and we run like race horses, galloping through the pastures, leaping over a flowing brook, before finally collapsing in a cave where we hideout until daybreak, wrapped in one another’s arms.”

The last part was a little much.

“You aren’t chicken are you?” He smiles. He knows damn good and well I am.

Of course you five o’clock moron. Who wouldn’t be? “No.” I’d never admit as much.

On the other hand, I’m not above leaving a trail of notes and emails in my wake. If I go on this holiday excursion, everyone from here to the Texas Bayou will know where I am and an estimated time of return. I start making a mental list of folks to notify while Freddy—err, I mean Denny—stuffs his head back under the hood of his truck.

“We can take my car,” I offer, conceding to Mr. Romance’s date offer. From past experiences I’ve learned valuable lessons. If I turn down a date idea, I stay home alone.

He tugs a few wires and sparks fly. He jumps backward. “Not a chance. We’ll enjoy the pickup more. Besides, they don’t call the back of my truck the flatbed for nothing.”

I sigh, refusing to acknowledge the reference of they for fear he’ll tell me the they in question can be interrogated telepathically once we arrive at the fields. Denny shoots me a wicked wink and returns to fiddle with his engine. Oh Lord. When did my boyfriend become like every other man—a legend in his own blue jeans and boots?

“If you get us stranded out there in the middle of those fields, so help me, I’ll…”

“Kristen, you’re worrying over something that you shouldn’t.” He leaves his post and loops an arm around my waist. At the moment, he probably thinks he’s more akin to Romeo than a grease monkey. “Trust me, pumpkin. I wouldn’t do anything to put you in danger.”

Being called a pumpkin, in light of the upcoming holiday, doesn’t reassure me. Rather than discuss the point, I return to my mental list of names. I need to notify everyone I can think of so if I’m not home by a certain time, a search party will form.

I’ll send an email to Aunt Frances. She lives in Houston and could probably reach me before anyone else in the family. She drives at a rabbit’s pace though. Yes, rabbit. When she’s behind the wheel, she knows one speed—wide open. Worse still, she jerks when she drives, causing the car to swerve. She hits every pothole she can and brags about this one time when she went flying through the air like a stunt driver for Dukes of Hazard.

Plan B drifts away. I have a better chance surviving Nightmare in A Killer’s Field than riding through a parking lot with Aunt Frances.

“Are you still with me?” Denny snaps his fingers.

“Yes,” I grumble, walking over to the soda machine and retrieving a cool beverage. My mental list continues. I’ll contact my third grade teacher, assuming she remembers me. She stands out as a strong woman ready to handle any catastrophe. I can still see Mrs. Donaldson swatting at flies with her long, lean paddle. “Dead!” she’d say. “Be gone you nuisance!” After laying a few insects to rest, she’d lift her head and with a wicked glimmer in her eye, she’d sing, “I always pretend I’m thumping my ex-husband’s head.”

I didn’t even know what an ex-husband was back then. My eyes meet Denny’s when he comes up for a hatchet. I mean a tool. He continues to work on his clunker. We exchange a silent glance.

Advance planning continues. I’ll drop my parents an email, but they’re on the road somewhere between Nashville and Memphis, so it’s hard to say when they’ll open their inboxes and retrieve their messages. I have every confidence that when they do—whether it’s this year or next—they’ll contact someone in regards to my whereabouts. This won’t happen right away. My mother will waste precious minutes screaming bloody hell about how they should’ve been able to leave me home alone.

“Admit it, sugar cube. You’ve never had a guy go to this much trouble to take you on a mysterious date.” Denny stretches his flexed arms outward. His lips pucker in a smooch, an involuntary one for sure, as he eyes his bulging muscles.

He shoots me a toothy grin. “I think the gym is paying off.”

I’ve lost forty pounds and he hasn’t noticed. I’m not about to comment on barely-there ripples. Finally, I return the smile, realizing it probably comes across as sadistic. “Remind me again. Why do you want to go to the fields?”

Denny wipes his blackened hands on an old rag. “Because I can’t think of a better place to be on Halloween.”

He evidently thinks this is a reasonable, if not intelligent, response.

If only I could agree.