Provocation was meant to be written solely from Victoria's POV. When she started thinking about the past, her mother jumped in and wagged her finger at me. "I need my story to be told, too. It's more important than you realize," she said.
Okaaaaay. Yeah. I'm just the writer. These characters own this story, ya know? So, I ditched everything I'd written up to that point and started over, giving dear Jane her voice. Oh, what a voice it turned out to be! I think you're going to love what she made me to do this book. I realize now that it's the only way I could've told this story and have you understand fully.
So, I send a huge round of applause and thanks to Jane Ward for forcing me to give her a voice.
I hope you enjoy! Kindly remember this hasn't been edited yet. Raw! LOL If you missed it, the first excerpt can be found here.
Title: Provocation - Pen Pals and Serial Killers - Story Two
Author: Jo Michaels
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Length (guessing): ~ 60k
Release Date: Spring, 2018
Doctor Victoria Ward has been killing men for over thirty years. Her victims all have one thing in common: they’re abusive. Righteousness is a close companion—it helps her sleep at night—and she holds the virtue closely as she defends the innocent, upholding the law when it won’t rise to protect those who need it most. When she meets a young girl named Kelly, and follows her down a twisted path of deception, Doc Ward finds herself face-to-face with a ghost from her past. Never before has she wavered in her resolve—but can she defend another against someone she loves?
“Mommy! Come look!”
Jane stood in the kitchen, her hands covered in flour, splotches of white dappling her apron, too. She turned and smiled, wincing with the movement. “Just a second, Vicki. Mommy’s got to clean up first.”
Laughing, she rinsed her hands and followed her daughter out the door, dishtowel flapping. “What is it, baby?”
Vicki gestured to a huge pile of rocks in the middle of the driveway, mud oozing down the tower’s sides, twigs sticking out at odd angles. She planted her small fists on her hips and lifted her chin. “I built a house! Just like Daddy does!”
Panic blazed through Jane at the speed of a supersonic jet. If Hank came home and saw… If he had to clean or move… No way could his truck get past that monstrosity, and it would probably rip the oil pan a new asshole in the process.
Her daughter’s face fell. “What’s wrong, Mommy?” Tears built in her eyes. “Don’t you like it?”
Shaking but smiling, Jane lifted her wrist to check the time as she answered, “I love it, baby.” Shit. He’ll be home in twenty minutes. No time. “Now, why don’t we get it cleaned up so Daddy can get up the driveway when he comes home?”
“Noooooooo! I wanna show it to Daddy, too!” Vicki wailed.
As the seconds ticked by, Jane’s heart thudded harder in her chest. She knelt and looked Vicki in the eyes. “I can’t even tell you how proud I am of you and how special this beautiful house is to me. Right now, though, I need you to be a big girl and help Mommy move it so Daddy doesn’t break his truck by running over it. You built it so big and so strong, not even his big ole truck could get past it.”
“That’s my girl. Now, could you please go get your brother and tell him to bring a shovel and wheelbarrow and come help?”
“Thank you! Run! Go fast!”
Vicki sped across the yard, pigtails bouncing.
Jane turned to survey the pile and lifted her wrist. Fifteen minutes. There’s no way. Slinging the dishtowel over her shoulder, she plunged her hands into the mess, throwing the rocks as hard and as far as she could, praying none of them were found by the bush hog.
A few minutes later, Grant flew around the side of the house, pushing a wheelbarrow with a shovel in it. When he saw the rock pile, he asked, “Vicki do this?”
Jane nodded, moisture pooling on her bottom lids.
“Mom, why can’t you just explain it to her?”
“She’s too little to understand, Grant.”
“I’m not a baby!” Victoria yelled. “I’m six!”
Her brother brought his face within an inch of hers. “Then why do you act like one? Doing things like this!”
“I did it for Mommy and Daddy!” Her plump cheeks quivered, and tears dripped down to her chin. Pressing her lips together, chin jutting forward, she stomped to the rock pile and kicked it.
“It’s wonderful, Vicki. Calm down. We just have to get it moved before Daddy gets home, okay?” Jane could feel her patience wearing thin. They needed to get busy. She checked her watch and cursed silently. Ten minutes. “Okay, let’s get this moved!”
Grant and Vicki worked on loading the wheelbarrow and spreading rocks over the driveway while Jane continued to pitch them toward the woods. It was a brutally hot West Virginia day, and by the time they’d demolished the pile, she was wringing wet and nearly out of time.
“Okay. You two go play on the swing set. I’ll call you when supper’s ready. Dump these by the cellar house, and put the wheelbarrow back for me?”
Both the children gave her a quick hug, Vicki jumped into the cart on top of the rocks, and Grant pushed as he ran.
Arm shaking, Jane glanced at her watch before grabbing the shovel and sprinting toward the house. Two minutes. She put the shovel by the door, flew down the hall while stripping off her dress and apron, and raced to the closet. Dirty clothes went in the hamper, and a new dress and apron were in place in a moment. In the bathroom, she carefully patted her face with a cool rag, removed any dirt smudges, and smoothed her hair.
One minute. Roaring sounds came from the driveway, forcing her heart rate into the stratosphere. She had to be back in that kitchen when he came in, up to her elbows in something food related.
“Honey, I’m home!” Hank sauntered through the door and dropped his tool belt on the floor before holding his arms open wide.
“How was your day, dear?” Jane asked as she kissed him on the cheek and let him pull her in for a hug, careful to keep her flour-covered hands held high.
He looked down at her and stared, brows pulled together, like he was trying to work something out.
Fear’s icy black tendrils snaked around her. He knows… “Hank?”
A wide grin broke out on his face, and he tapped her nose. “You have flour all over you, but you’re so beautiful.”
Jane’s face got hot as relief flooded her. She smiled and kissed him again. Let him think it’s because he flattered me.
“Somethin’ smells good,” he said.
“It’s a deer loin. I’ve been roasting it all afternoon.” She moved away from him and went back to her task.
“What’s for desert?”
“Blackberry pie. I’m about to get it in the oven. I know how you like it hot.” No thought required, her hands skillfully rolled the pie crust out on the counter, flipped it over the rolling pin, and settled it over the dish.
“I do love hot pie.”
“Why don’t you go wash up? Supper will be on the table by the time you get back.”
With a grunt, he left.
Jane’s eyes slid closed, and she inhaled and exhaled, relief forcing hot air through her lips.
By the time he returned, she had the table set, pie in the oven, the children washed and seated, and piping hot food ready and waiting to be consumed.
His eyes flitted to his place, and he frowned.
She leapt from her chair, apologized, and fixed his glass of whiskey. Stupid! How could you forget? Hands shaking, causing the ice to clatter on the sides of the glass, she put the drink down and returned to her seat.
He picked it up and took a long draw, breathing heavily as the stress of the day whooshed out.
Everyone sat in silence and waited. It was several minutes before he spoke.
“Let’s get this over with.” One meaty paw extended on either side, grasping the hands of his wife and son, Hank led the prayer. “Amen.”
Jane filled his plate first then tended the children. Her hands were still shaking. No way would he let that slip up about the drink go unpunished. Question was: Would it be sooner or later? As she pondered, she worried for the children, especially Grant. He’d grown bolder over the previous year, and his last attempt at intervention damned near put him in the hospital.
They ate quietly, and Jane refilled Hank’s glass twice during the meal.
An odd smell infiltrated her nose as she was putting another piece of cornbread on Grant’s plate. Once again, terror gripped her as she realized what was happening. She sprang from her chair and ran for the kitchen, jerking the oven open, grabbing a dishtowel at the same time.
Her beautiful latticed pie was dark brown on top. Burned. Ruined. She would pay dearly. That was two mistakes. No amount of rutting would be enough; Hank would demand flesh.
“Burned that pie?” His voice floated through the air like an ominous shadow—threatening, carrying with it the promise of pain.
Tears carved their way free and raced to her chin. No. She wouldn’t let him see her like that. That’s what he wanted. Inhaling, she put the pie on the counter, threw down the dishtowel, wiped her face with the back of her hands, and slunk back to her chair. “I did. I’m sorry. I just forg—” His forearm collided with her face, and she fell backward, head slamming against the wood floor. Stars exploded in her vision.
“Stupid woman! You can’t even bake a freaking pie! What good are you?”
Instantly, Vicki starting crying.
“Go to your rooms!” He roared.
Both children fled.
Only Vicki paused at the doorway, looking back at her mother with wide, sad eyes full of tears. Then the child scurried away.
Each time Hank’s fist or foot collided with Jane’s body, she gasped. Insults fell on deaf ears, and she still held in tears she refused to let him see.
Finally, after he’d worked his rage out on her already tender frame once again, he collapsed on the couch. “Why do you make me do this? Why can’t you get it right? Just once.”
“I’m sorry, Hank.” Her voice sounded tinny and disconnected, far away and hollow. Nearly unrecognizable to her own ears.
“Yes. Yes, you are. You’re one sorry piece of crap. But I love you. I don’t wanna have to beat you to make you do right.” He stood up and walked toward the bedroom. “Clean this craphole up. When you’re done, come and tend to your husband’s needs.”
Vibrations from his feet striking the floor radiated through her brain. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t think. She could only be.
I am nothing.
Vicki’s door was partially open, and one eye could be seen through the sliver of a crack.A single tear slipped down Jane’s face.
What do you think? Excited yet?
Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!