John Paul Allen is touring around the internet these days, drumming up support for his book Gifted Trust. I have the distinct pleasure of providing you with an excerpt, but there are a few things that need to be taken care of first!
John Paul Allen refers to himself as a Semi-Complete Unknown. That said, his popularity seems to be growing. “It’s all material.” Allen says when asked where his ideas come from. “Life is the best source, and nothing is off limits.”
What He Writes: Stories without borders. John Paul Allen is known for crossing lines and warns readers, “Nothing is off limits, if it edifies a story. If you want safe, there’s a lot of that being offered. I expect my readers to go beyond the content, in order to enjoy the story.”
John Paul Allen is originally from Michigan, but served in the US Navy in Cuba and on board the USS Brownson, USS Wainwright, USS Frank Cable and USS Dewert. He’s lived in Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas and now Tennessee. He lives near Nashville where he spends his time with his girlfriend enjoying being Paw Paw to one-year-old Makenzie and his new born granddaughter, Zoe.
Now let’s talk a little bit about the Gifted Trust and the giveaway that Biting Dog Press is undertaking!
In 1930 Max Belote, a Dallas literary agent, heard the voice of Virago. “Tell her, just be good,” it whispered and he’d repeat before mutilating or killing his victim. Wanting to stop the evil entity inside him, Max ended his life. In 1970 convicted serial murderer Jeffrey Michael Roberts also heard the words, and until his execution he fulfilled its desires. In 2003 Virago spoke to Edward Paine, a high school teacher, who sought help to destroy the creature within. One soul, three lives, and the evil entity that commands them.
Death is not the end… It’s a brief interruption.
And now the giveaway!
And here is the excerpt – read and enjoy!
Everett felt the heat, and if able he would have rubbed his hands together. He’d caress his fingers individually then flex the digits until the sting subsided. If he could crawl to them he would place his mouth over each finger and blow temporal warmth. Instead he collected his thoughts of the final words spoken before being left alone. What plans do you have for the rope, Randolph? He’s got nothing left to tie.
Everett moved his arms and remembered all below each elbow was gone. He could not explore the empty holes that once held his eyes and as the dizziness progressed he wondered if his fate was to burn or bleed to death. He smelled the smoke seeping upward through the floor as his thoughts slipped to Clément’s instructions. Do not make a fire. If someone spots smoke you may be discovered. Light the lantern, find blankets and extinguish it. His mind drifted to the torch he saw in the distance as he dismounted the carriage. He assumed travelers preceding him on the road would pass the cottage, give note to the shuttered windows, and continue on. They will not stop, he thought. He was wrong.
I’m going to die, Everett thought. The fear dissipated as the pain climaxed. His only concern was that Celeste might continue her plan and find him in the morning. Maybe she knows. If told, what reason would she have to come? He began to pray then lost track of his thoughts, as the seepage from his empty sockets increased. Even this could not hold his attention, as his mind took him to his last moments whole.
Hours earlier Everett wished Pierre a safe return and turned his attention toward Lever de Soleil. The house was comparable to yearly homes of Quebec’s moderately successful gentlemen, built by Clément to begin his life with Lorraine. He wanted many children, but only his wealth grew and eventually he and his daughter moved to their final residence.
Everett circled the structure and entered the rear entrance where staff carried food across the whistler’s walk from the kitchen quarters behind the main residence. Few rays of light found their way into the cottage, so he located the lantern and Lucifers inside the doorway. He passed through the dining room, continuing down the hallway until approaching stairs, and ascended to the second floor where he viewed four closed doors. Three to his right faced the river. The fourth, Celeste’s room, was to the left and gave sight to those approaching from the road.
Entering the room Everett set the lantern on a table covered by a white embroidered doily and crossed the floor to a chest. Opening it he discovered a comforter, which he removed and placed on the unmade bed. Here he would spend his night wrapped in the cloth that many times kept his lover warm. Built near the Quebec River, screening was placed along all outer windows in late spring to allow the breeze from the water to keep in-house temperatures mild. At the beginning of autumn the same would be replaced by wooden boards to protect against the cold until they departed for winter.
Everett moved to the window and attempted to view between cracks in the shutter, but outside darkness made it impossible. He assumed those spotted earlier had passed quietly and he turned the knob at the base of the lantern to deaden the glow before securing himself within the bedding. He imagined all that happened between Celeste and Varnwell. Tomorrow she’ll come and we’ll be off, he thought.
As Everett drifted to sleep he envisioned the confrontation, assured Celeste would manage the path of least resistance. If the Colonel knew too much she’d accept his anger and beg forgiveness, but would expect none. She would be credited for the break and never again be considered a choice partner. If he believed her, she’d bid him good eve and retreat to her bedroom to wait for the night’s silence. Either scenario ended with her coach, guided by moonlight, setting out to their union. He estimated her arrival to be before dawn. She’d awaken him and they’d instruct her driver to continue to the Port of Quebec where they would seek passage to a destination yet determined. Celeste’s possible condition made him think Philadelphia or Boston the best choices. Giving thought of their future Everett’s mind clouded then passed into dreams and in the heaviness he found difficulty separating sleep from those moments leading to his end.
“He sleeps like a babe, does he not?” The voice gave no owner as Everett’s eyes opened. “Hope we weren’t rough in your waking.”
Everett threw his covers off and swung his feet toward the floor, as the barrel of the long gun pressed against his chest. A match was drawn to the lantern and he saw them surrounding the bed.
“I wouldn’t try rising,” said the soldier.
Everett turned and took note of the man who was obviously the leader of the patrol and attempted to make conversation. “What are you doing here? I’m a guest of the owner of this property.”
“Sir, I’m not here to discuss such matters,” said the soldier. “It appears you’ve sided wrongly with my superior.”
“I am in Colonel Varnwell’s service,” Everett said. “This cottage is property of his …”
Everett couldn’t recall finishing his testimony before the blow came, but he remembered pulling on the bindings connecting his arms and legs to the head and foot boards when he woke. Seven men he counted, three on each side and the one who orchestrated their movements stood at his feet.
“Who sent you?” Everett asked.
“Quiet, no need to converse,” said the soldier. “You already know.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I insist you release me,” said Everett. “This is all a mistake.” The blow of the stock came down upon his chest and the sound of a rib cracking was followed by his cry.
“Again, there is no need for us to talk,” the soldier said. His voice, a deep and graveled whisper, spoke without emotion. His hair, long and dark, paired well with his black eyes. The corners of his mouth hitched upward into a meaningless smile. “Still I will do you the courtesy of an introduction. I am Phineas, of Colonel Varnwell’s command. You may have seen me before. I know I’ve observed you many times. My duty is to tend to special assignments given by the Colonel. He tells me what he expects and I comply.”
“Please, let me explain,” said Everett.
“I’m sorry, but you hold little worth bargaining,” said Phineas. “I am expected to make this last as long as possible and your talking hinders my work. I will ask you once to not put up resistance. Now, prepare to section him.”
Phineas nodded to another in uniform, who set his weapon against the wall and moved to the table holding the lantern. A gloved hand was placed on the base, as the other lifted the glass freeing the flame.
“Permit me to introduce Watson to you, Mr. Everett,” Phineas said nodding to the man standing next to him. “Could you please briefly share what you do?”
“I’m a physician,” Watson said.
“Watson, please …” Phineas said.
“I’ve assisted many doctors,” said Watson as he pulled something out of his coat. Everett looked into the shadow created by the soldier’s body and realized the man held several short pieces of metallic rock, which he placed next to the lantern before continuing to speak. “I’ve had many opportunities to partake in field medical procedures. What I speak of is the occasional amputation.”
“No,” Everett cried. His eyes widened as a rifle fell upon him again.
“Mr. Everett, as much as I’d enjoy a debate, my men have gone without rest for more hours than I care to count because of you,” Phineas said. “Do not interrupt again.”
“Thank you,” said Watson. “As I was saying, I have assisted in a number of operations and as you might imagine the loss of a limb is followed by a considerable amount of bleeding. It is this that leads to deaths more often than the cause of the wound itself.” He paused to lift the wire and a surgical clamp displaying them before Everett. “These will aid in ceasing the flow of blood. What we are about to do is remove various parts of you in whatever order Mr. Phineas directs, beginning with your tongue. As each piece is detached I will follow by searing the wound. Doing so will form a crust and hinder the flow. Clamps will enable me to stop blood released from severed arteries. Unfortunately we are without proper cutting instruments, but Randolph has spent considerable time sharpening his knife and finding substitute tools. Now, I believe we can begin.”
Watson, a smaller and much older man than the others, nodded at Randolph. The soldier nearest Everett’s head on the opposite side of the bed unsheathed a hunting knife and grinned. He held it before the prisoner and ran his thumb across the blade, allowing drops of blood to fall onto the quilt. As Everett turned away, hands grasped his head and forced it to face the steel. Fingers were planted onto his cheeks and pressure was applied to force his jaw open. Randolph took hold of Everett’s tongue, extended it out of his mouth and slit it at its base. Blood flowed and his head was turned to allow drainage. His screams grew as Watson placed the glowing wire onto the stub.
“Maybe I should have asked if you had a last statement, Mr. Everett. I apologize,” Phineas said, “but we have no time for sentiment. Watson, I wish you would do something to stop his crying. Could you remove his eyes?”
Everett was thankful that the haze of the shadows left the bayonet’s sharpness a mystery until it was upon him. A soldier stepped forward and plunged the blade between the left eyeball and the edge of the socket popping it loose. As it dangled Randolph’s knife cut the nerve that attached it to the head and the steps were repeated without hesitation to the right eye.
“This is an act of kindness,” said Phineas. “I wish I was able to avoid witnessing what I’m forced to observe, but I suppose that is the price of duty. Now I’ll have to ask you for your patience for we must modify to accommodate you.”
Everett listened to footsteps leaving and he could hear pounding, as if someone was hammering. When it ceased he heard the men returning and he felt hands moving beneath him. Wooden boards were being slid between him and the mattress. The shutters, he thought.
“I believe we’re prepared to continue,” Phineas broke the silence. “As Watson conveyed earlier, we lack certain medical instruments. He mentioned not possessing a surgical tool for your limbs. Thus we had to devise a replacement.”
Please, Everett thought. Haven’t you done enough? His arms and legs pulled on the restraints and he attempted to protest. “Oow… peesh…” Don’t please. “I’m soree,” I’m sorry.
“We’ll be removing your legs first, Mr. Everett. Randolph, are you ready,” Phineas said. “If you hold still this may go quickly.” He nodded at the soldier who raised the ax over his head and brought it down upon the left leg below the knee. The cut failed, as upper and lower segments remained united by tissue. “I want it off.”
Randolph stretched the sections to create a gap then cut the resisting ligaments. The lower leg rolled and fell off the side of the bed, still attached to the rope. A soldier braced the thigh as Watson attempted to cauterize the stump with the metallic rock, but realized immediately the effort would be fruitless.
“This isn’t going to work,” Watson said, “and I won’t have enough clamps for both his arms.”
“Then we must move faster and get by with what we have. I want him alive when we leave,” said Phineas as he turned to a soldier next to him. “Go begin the fire, hurry. Randolph, the other leg, cut it.”
Randolph moved closer to the bed forcing the ax into the air and down in one motion. This time the blade struck the kneecap splitting it in two. A second swing was needed to part the limb.
“Eesse… Eesse…” Everett screamed. Celeste… Celeste… he wanted unconsciousness to take him and thoughts of her to be his last.
“You cry for the girl? Such a coincidence,” said Phineas. “Fear not Mr. Everett, you’ll be joining her soon. The Colonel’s entourage had their way with her earlier and though it didn’t go as planned I am here to equalize matters.” He looked at Randolph, who stood holding the ax to his side. “Do I need to tell you everything? Pick an arm.”
“Hold the right one to the board,” the soldier shouted at Watson as he took aim. The blade did the work with one stroke and all noticed the fingers flexing after separation. “Now hold the left one still.” Again he swung the weapon, and upon release the limb dangled from the restraint.
“Do you smell the smoke, Mr. Everett? I would distinguish that ability, but you might not appreciate your predicament,” Phineas said. “Now we must leave you to face your end. Bleed or burn, those are your options.” He looked at Randolph, who dropped the ax and now held a segment of rope as he stared at the torso. “What plans do you have for the rope, Randolph? He’s got nothing left to tie.” The soldiers laughed as one grabbed the lantern and they exited the room.
He thought not of the pain or the fire, but only of Celeste as he imagined her calling to him. Everett … Everett, he heard her cries. It was then that he knew she would not compromise to survive without him. He wished to sleep until they were together again and prayed the end would come quickly. He felt the bed give way as flames ate the wood beneath him. As the floor weakened the frame tilted until he slid, dragging the blankets with him. His clothing and hair caught fire and his last thoughts were of his own burning flesh. Days later his blackened remains would be discovered, as his soul watched from another world.