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Mind Demons - A Psychological Dark Mystery.

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Why won’t anyone listen?

Linda Morgan thought she had a safe office job, but when she discovers that one of her clients was murdered, she soon finds out nothing is safe. Armed with only her wits and determination, she soon finds herself in a perilous cat and mouse game with the killer.

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Sally saw her as soon as she stepped through the door of Carlyle’s sports bar. The bitch was working behind the counter and looked like she didn’t have a worry in the world. Well, that was about to change, she thought.

The place smelled of stale tobacco and grease, mixed with a hint of someone’s lingering perfume. Sally paused and looked around before heading over to the bar. It was a little past eleven Sunday evening, and the place was almost empty. Perfect. A group of four men sat at a table engulfed in cigar smoke, hoarse laughter, and loud conversation. Sally wrinkled her nose and sat down on a stool, fidgeting to straighten her skirt.

The wooden bar took up a full third of the room. Horseshoe shaped; it was designed to give a clear view of any one of the three televisions set above a large mirror. Several stools from where she sat a young couple were holding hands, engrossed in a rerun of Cheers. The girl wore tight black shorts and a skimpy white top that clung to her breasts and bulged at the midriff in a soft white puddle of skin. From where Sally sat it looked like a doughy life preserver. The boy was short and thin with a panther stenciled on his arm, an adolescent mustache, and long dark hair tied back into a ponytail. It glistened in the dim light as if it were oiled. An ashtray sat on the bar between them, and the tendrils of smoke from their cigarettes twisted together in an erotic dance that might have reflected the couple’s thoughts.

There were two people behind the bar. One, a young man in his twenties, moved over to stand in front of Sally. He was square and squat with bulging biceps, a tiny waist, and an attitude that suggested that she, too, could become one of his admirers. Dumb shit, she thought, as she ordered a beer and laid a five-dollar bill on the counter. He returned with her drink, and she turned away from him to discourage any attempt at conversation. He stood there a moment, then took the hint and walked away.

Sally turned her attention to the other person behind the bar, a thin attractive woman in her early thirties with shaggy blond hair, blue eyes, and a tight close-lipped smile. Sally watched the woman sort through the bottles of liquor arranged along the back of the bar. Occasionally, she picked up a bottle, held it up to the light, and made a note on a pad of paper sitting on the counter.

The table behind Sally grew quiet. She looked into the mirror behind the bar, saw the four men huddled together, and realized that she was the object of their conversation. As she watched, one of the men stood, said something to his friends, and headed her way. He had long sandy hair, a pockmarked face, and sinewy arms that were etched with tattoos. His friends put their heads together and laughed as the man took the seat next to her.

He reeked of cigars and beer and Sally tried to ignore him. “Can I buy you a drink?” he asked, oblivious to her attitude.

“Get lost,” Sally said, as she took a sip from her beer. The asshole should know better, she thought.

“You don’t have to be bitchy about it,” the man said. He slurred his words, and it came out more like “bishy.” With exaggerated care, he leaned toward her until his mouth was only inches from her cheek. His breath was hot on her face and had a strange, sweet odor to it. “I was just trying to be friendly.”

“I don’t need a friend,” she said as she pulled away from him.

The man’s voice had grown louder as he spoke and drew the attention of the others in the bar. The bartender began to edge toward her, and the woman looked up from her bottles. Behind Sally, the man’s friends roared at his discomfort.

“Well up yours,” he said. He turned from her, looked at his friends, and shouted, “That goes for all of you.” As he staggered toward the exit, Sally picked up her beer and watched him totter away.

“Sorry about that.” The woman had left her bottles to stand next to the bartender. Her name tag read, ‘Denise.’ “He’s a regular, quite harmless.”

Sally looked her in the eyes. “It’s no big deal. He isn’t the first guy to hit on me.”

“Do I know you?” Denise asked.

“I don’t think so.” Sally changed the subject. “I thought it was illegal to smoke in bars.”

Denise shrugged. “The owner doesn’t believe in the law, and I’m not a cop. If you’re thinking of complaining, I wouldn’t. Last person who called the cops had her car keyed.”

“I don’t mind. I was curious.” Sally smiled down into her drink. The woman stood looking at her for a moment then went back to her bottles. Good, Sally thought. It would never do for her to recognize me now.

After that, Denise looked up every few minutes and seemed to be studying Sally. Sally finished her beer, stood, and left the bar.

Sally watched from her car as the final customers and the bartender who’d tried hitting on her wandered out into the night. It was almost one by the time Denise stepped through the door.

Sally reached over and picked up the sock she’d stuffed earlier with three rolls of quarters. Jumping out of her car, she ran around to the front, lifted the hood, and waited. The night air was charged and hot and carried the faint scent of an approaching storm. Sally had spent a lot of time getting to know Denise, and she knew Denise would not ignore a woman in distress. She might have hesitated with a man but not another woman. Sally listened, following the muted sound of footsteps along the parking lot. She waited to turn until Denise spoke from behind her. “Problems?”

“Thank God.” As Sally faced Denise, she placed her hand out of sight and down to her side. “I thought everyone had left. I forgot my phone and now the damn car won’t start. It’s done this before, not start. If I let it sit for a little while it will be okay. I’ve had it into the dealership four or five times, but of course it always starts then. You know, you expect more from a two-year-old car.”

The woman smiled. “I think they build problems into cars,” she said. “It helps to keep the mystique of the auto mechanic alive. You can use my phone if you’d like.”

“I hate to be a bother, but I don’t relish the thought of being caught out here alone at night.” Sally kept her voice low, and she smiled when Denise moved in closer.

“No problem.” Denise slipped her purse from her shoulder, opened it, and began to dig for her phone.

As Denise looked down, Sally took one more glance around, raised the sock over her head, and whipped it toward the other woman. Her aim was off, and the homemade sap caught the woman along the right side of her neck and across her shoulder.

Denise staggered, crying out as she fell to her knees. A wave of excitement surged through Sally when the betrayer looked over her shoulder, and Sally saw pain and fear in the woman’s eyes. Sally swung the sock and brought it down hard on the woman’s head and started to raise it again, but the woman dropped to the ground and lay unconscious before her.

Sally tried to lift the still body, but Denise was much heavier than she had expected. A wave of panic overwhelmed her. She looked around the parking lot, searching frantically to make sure they were still alone. Satisfied, she bent down, grabbed the woman’s wrists, and dragged her to the trunk of the car.

Sally felt vulnerable as she ran to the front of the car and closed the hood. She grabbed the keys from the ignition and raced to the trunk. Sally swore as she fumbled with the keys, almost dropping them before getting the right one in the lock. She sighed as the trunk popped open, and then she reached down and struggled to lift the unconscious body.

With a final back-wrenching shrug, Sally flung Denise into the back of the car. She straightened, slammed the trunk closed, then smoothed her dress as she looked around one more time to make sure she was still unobserved. She walked around the car, climbed in behind the wheel, and willed her body to relax. Sally put the key into the ignition as the first tentative drops of rain found her windshield.

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