THE MURDER SEAT
by Noel Coughlan
THE MURDER SEAT
Copyright © 2016 Noel Coughlan
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages embodied in critical articles or in a review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover by Venanzio (www.tatlin.net)
Edited by Finish The Story (http://www.finish-the-story.com/Editing.htm)
Additional Proofreading by Proofed to Perfection (http://www.proofedtoperfection.com/)
Published by Photocosmological Press (http://photocosm.org/)
Epub Edition: ISBN:978-1-910206-12-6
Dr. Herbert Marriott gazed upon the austere wooden chair idly placed inside the windowed cabinet. Fifty years of dust lay upon it. A half-century had passed since its evil had been imprisoned behind glass, sentenced forever to be an untouched exhibit in his museum.
Its murderous history began in 1847, at the height of the Great Famine. One of Major Mackleton’s tenants, recently evicted, visited his residence to beg for her home back. The major invited the old woman briefly into the reception hall to remind her of the money she still owed. Incensed by this humiliation, she laid a curse upon him. Within a fortnight, his two strapping sons were found dead, thrown from their horses on the same hunt. Soon after, the major’s wife died of grief. Even his favorite dog succumbed to the malediction. The major himself lasted another month before he, too, died of some unspecified ailment. According to legend, he departed this world screaming.
His servants blamed these calamities on the chair the major had sat upon when the old woman laid her curse. They claimed that to rest upon it invited death.
The Roycroft-Smythe family, the major’s cousins, scoffed at this superstitious claptrap when they inherited his property. Within a year, they, too, had died. A succession of unfortunate owners suffered the same ill fate, until one canny individual, William Boyce, donated it to the Dublin Museum of Culture and Art. Yet his wit did not save him. The day after the chair arrived at the museum, Boyce’s house collapsed, killing him and all whom he loved.
The Murder Seat, as more lurid elements of the press dubbed it, remained in storage until its infamy had somewhat mellowed. In the thirties, the then curator, Henry Tyrwhitt, desperate to finance the museum, exhibited the chair as a means of drawing in less-refined patrons. At first, the gambit succeeded. People from all over Ireland came to see the notorious chair. A few braver souls even sat upon it to test the curse. The museum’s takings from this most unusual exhibit exceeded Tyrwhitt’s wildest hopes. But then people began to turn up dead…
Of course, no court found the museum culpable for these deaths. They were unfortunate accidents. The fact that all the victims had sat on the Murder Seat was coincidental. But in 1934, Tyrwhitt was moved to protect the public from itself by locking the chair away in a glass cabinet, just before he drowned in the Liffey.
Exactly five decades later, Herbert, his current successor, now held the key to the Murder Seat’s prison in his quivering hand.
He had a problem he hoped the chair might solve, and her name was Concepta Ryan. His secretary. And his lover.
Their affair had begun so innocently, but now it threatened to wreck his marriage and ruin his good name. She demanded the impossible. He could never leave his wife. He loved Margaret. But Concepta had made less than subtle threats that she would destroy what she could not possess. The action Herbert contemplated wasn’t murder, merely self-defense.
Besides, the curse might be merely happenstance and exaggeration fabricated by macabre imaginations. Concepta might survive sitting upon the chair. The thought stirred anxiety as much as it eased his conscience. If the Murder Seat failed him, what then?
He pushed the little key into the keyhole and tried to turn it. For an agonizing moment, the lock refused to budge. He applied more pressure until it clicked open. The cabinet trembled dangerously as he swung open the squealing glass doors.
He gazed upon the intended means of Concepta’s demise. The plainness of the chair only added to its menace. It was of a type found in many historic houses. Indeed, most chairs in the museum’s offices were exact replicas—a tasteless joke made by a previous curator. Even Herbert had been forced to use one since his ten-year-old swivel chair broke.
He patiently waited for the cleaner to pass by. The regular lady was on leave, so some sullen youngster had temporarily taken her place. Of course, the new girl knew little of the museum or its exhibits—a detail to Herbert’s advantage. After all, he needed her help. He couldn’t risk touching the Murder Seat himself.
The metallic creak of her bucket echoed down the corridor before her. She wore the soiled white coat typical of her profession. She stank of cheap perfume and bleach. Peroxide-blond hair, sternly pulled back into a ponytail, emphasized the plainness of her face.
“You are here late,” she observed with ill-concealed annoyance.
“Hello, my dear,” he said. “Can you help me?”
She gave him a suspicious scowl as she halted and laid down her bucket and mop.
He pointed to the chair. “I need this moved to my office. I suffer from backaches, you see.” He illustrated his point by grimacing and rubbing the small of his back.
Her cheeks puffed with irritation. She seized the chair and lifted it from the cabinet. “You can carry the mop and bucket.”
“My back,” he pleaded, wincing in an effort to play the part of an invalid to avoid arousing suspicion.
Her natural scowl deepened, but mercifully she kept silent. Herbert led her down the shabby corridor to his office and asked her to plant the Murder Seat in front of his mahogany desk.
“You wouldn’t mind giving it a wipe, would you?” he asked with a nervous chuckle. “It’s a bit dusty.”
She pulled a used dust cloth from her pocket and proceeded to take out her frustrations on the chair.
Herbert raised his trembling hands. The Murder Seat mustn’t be angered. “More gentle, please!”
She directed a sour glance at him but eased her assault.
“Thank you very much,” Herbert said when she finished. He rested one hand on the duplicate chair beside him, the one for visitors. “Now would you mind bringing this seat back to the cabinet?”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m here to clean, not to shift furniture about the place.” She snatched the chair up and headed for the door.
He dashed ahead and held it open for her like a gentleman should. They walked side by side back to the cabinet.
“I suppose you want me to lift this into the cabinet,” she muttered.
“If you wouldn’t mind.”
Her lower lip jutted out, but she hefted the chair into the cabinet. “I’ll clean your office now,” she said as she picked up the mop and bucket.
Herbert nodded enthusiastically. “Of course. Just don’t sit on that seat.”
She arched an eyebrow. “Has it got a bad back as well?”
He laughed nervously. “Very good. Very good.”
As she stomped away, he locked the cabinet and slipped the key back into his pocket. Surely, the Murder Seat would do her no harm. She had merely moved it from one place to another. And, of course, she had dusted it. But she had not sat on it.
He followed behind her at a discrete distance and hovered near his office door while she cleaned. From inside came the sounds of the mop splashing in the bucket and slobbering across the scuffed ceramic floor, rubbish dropping into a plastic bag, the squeal of moving furniture… What was she doing in there? He crept nearer to the doorjamb to peer inside, only to be confronted by her. She gave him a suspicious glare.
“So you are finished,” he said. “Very good.”
“You can’t go in there yet.” She grunted. “The floor’s wet.”
He nodded. “I’ll wait right here till it’s dry.”
She had lumbered halfway down the corridor when she looked back at him. For no obvious reason, he smiled and waved. She shook her head and continued down the hall. As soon as she disappeared from view, he entered his office.
Instead of the familiar scent of must and storage heaters, the vile sting of bleach assaulted his nostrils. Had she not been informed that such harsh cleaning agents were strictly forbidden in his office? In other circumstances, he might have complained to her supervisor, but not tonight. She had done him a great service. She deserved some leniency.
The Murder Seat was where she had originally placed it. She must have washed the floor around it. That was the trouble with the youth of today—no attention to detail. He walked around to the far side of his desk and sat down. He picked up the receiver of his black telephone to find the coiled cord had telltale knots. The cleaner must have used it, probably to ring some pimply boyfriend. Or perhaps she had merely cleaned it.
By the time he had unwound it, the dial tone had cut out. He replaced the receiver and lifted it again. Carefully, he dialed Concepta’s number.
“Hello.” It wasn’t Concepta’s voice. It belonged to an older woman. Perhaps the speaker was her mother.
“Can I speak to Concepta, please?”
“Can I speak to Concepta, please?” he yelled.
The old woman roared for Concepta. Feet hammered down a flight of stairs. Hands fumbled with the other receiver. It fell and clattered against the wall. A hushed curse came through the line as someone picked it up.
“Yes?” This time it was definitely Concepta.
“Come to the museum,” he said. “I’ve thought about what you said, and I’ve come to a decision.” He slammed the receiver down before she could reply.
He yanked open the stiff bottom drawer and removed a bottle of whiskey and a pair of tumblers. He poured himself a drink and lifted it to his lips. His wife and son smiled at him from the photograph on his desk. It must be at least twenty years old. Margaret’s hair was long, straight, and blond. She had been really beautiful back then. As for Francis, he must have been—what, maybe twelve?—when the photograph had been taken. The boy beamed as he held a massive trout in his arms. Such happy, innocent times. Herbert turned the photograph facedown and swallowed his drink.
By the time Concepta knocked on his door, he had emptied half of the bottle. “Come in,” he said. “I’m alone.” His eyes drifted to the Murder Seat. It sat as still and innocent as a Venus flytrap awaiting its victim.
She entered. The enamel disks visible beneath her bushy, permed blond hairdo matched the blue of her severely tight dress. The whiskey and bleach couldn’t protect him from the reek of her vulgar perfume. Her makeup was heavier than normal. If anything, it detracted from her appearance. Evidently, she wanted to make an impression.
She had succeeded, but not in the manner she had intended. Her attire, like her comportment, was too gauche for his tastes. The only thing that he had ever really loved about her was her unquenchable attraction to him. Now that it had turned into an obsession, it no longer titillated. It had become a very real threat.
“Please, sit down,” he said, waving at the Murder Seat.
She didn’t move. Did she sense something was amiss?
She slowly walked over to the dreaded chair. Herbert cringed as she sat down, but nothing happened. The chair behaved like any other.
She crossed her arms, her eyes narrowing into suspicious squints. “So what do you want to say to me?”
He cleared his throat. “I’m going to leave Margaret.”
Her lips pressed into a defiant line. “You’ve promised that before. But the time’s never right. There’s always some convenient excuse.”
Resting his elbows on the desk, he opened his hands in a pleading gesture. “All I ask is three months. If I haven’t told her by then, you can.” Three months would be enough for the Murder Seat to do its magic. Hopefully.
She nodded at the desk. “I hope you’re doing the talking and not that half-empty bottle.”
“Of course not.”
A wan smile crept across her face. “That’s a start, I suppose. But remember, I’m not some floozy. I won’t be satisfied with being your mistress.”
Now that it no longer mattered, the best course was to humor her fantasy, but Herbert couldn’t help himself. Separating from his wife would be a scandal, but divorce was a legal impossibility. “If you’re pinning your hopes on this talk of a referendum to remove the constitutional ban—”
Concepta’s eyes had a determined gleam as she slowly shook her head. “I’m not. We’ll move to England until you can legally obtain a divorce there. Then we can marry. Obviously it’ll have to be a civil ceremony, as no Catholic priest will wed us, but I’ll still be Mrs. Herbert Marriott.”
His eyes stretched with shock, but he nodded enthusiastically. “There’s nothing I want more.” Nobody could reason with such madness. Yet he felt sorry for the poor deluded fool. Here she was, mapping out the rest of her life when it was already forfeit to the Murder Seat.
Her smile blossomed. Her eyes glistened like indigo gems. She leapt up and rushed around the desk, her arms stretching to embrace him. He stood, pushed back his chair with the backs of his legs, and turned to escape her, but she proved too quick. As her arms tightened around him, all he could think was that he was in the grasp of a living corpse.
She regarded him with horror after he pushed her away. “Why did you do that?”
“I must leave soon,” he said, trying to sound apologetic. “Margaret is expecting me.”
The violence of Concepta’s stare made him falter backward.
“You dragged me down here, and now you scurry off to your wife,” she snarled. “I suppose you’re afraid to offer me a lift home. I’ll have to get the bus, as usual.”
“I’ll drive you,” he blurted.
She snorted. “I’ll make my own way home, thanks.” She stormed from the room, slamming the mahogany door behind her.
He resisted the urge to pursue her. Nothing had come of similar flare-ups in the past. On mature reflection, he felt relief at her departure. Her presence was an intolerable reminder of his infidelity and the extreme measure that he had taken to correct it.
He put away the whiskey and the tumblers, donned his hat and coat, grabbed his briefcase, and made toward the door. He paused. What about the Murder Seat? It was too dangerous to leave in the office. It had to be returned to its cabinet. He couldn’t move it, either. He didn’t dare touch it. The cleaner had gone home by now. The security guard on duty happened to be an old-timer who knew too much about the Murder Seat to not ask awkward questions.
The only choice was to leave it in his office until the next night and persuade the cleaner to return it. Herbert would tell Concepta that he was busy and forbid all visits for the day.
He switched off the light and locked the door, imprisoning the Murder Seat in its temporary home.
The next morning, Herbert found Concepta’s office locked. Sulking at home, no doubt. The girl had no sense of professionalism. She had better be in soon. Herbert needed a secretary today of all days.
He unlocked his office and entered. The Murder Seat stood exactly where it had been the night before. As he hung his hat and coat, the phone rang. He picked up the receiver.
“Hello. Is this Dr. Marriott?” an old lady asked sweetly.
“It is. Who, might I ask, is calling?”
“This is Concepta’s mother. I’m afraid she’s feeling poorly so she won’t be in today.”
“What’s wrong with her?” Herbert tried to sound sympathetic, but irritation edged his voice.
“Her tummy’s not good. She got sick three times during the night.”
“Oh, that’s terrible. Tell her to rest up for however long she needs and not to worry about this place. We’ll manage till she’s better.”
He slammed down the receiver, and with a mute roar, he punched the air in triumph. The Murder Seat’s spell must be already working. How long would she last? A day? A week? It didn’t matter as long as he was rid of her for good.
But this left him with a problem. He had no gatekeeper to his office. Anyone might stroll in and become the Murder Seat’s next victim. The best thing to do was to lock the door again and wander the museum for the day; tell everyone it was an inspection.
So he spent his morning and early afternoon making careful notes of damaged display cases, missing curios, watermarks on the ceilings, peeling paint, dangerously soft spots in the checkered linoleum floors, and other symptoms of neglect and decay. That was the problem with running the third most important museum in a small city—it was always the runt of the litter when it came to funding, especially in recessionary times. The National Museum had it so easy. Most tourists never read enough of their guidebooks to discover the existence of its lesser-known rival, much less bother to visit it.
A little before three o’clock, an overweight, red-faced security guard ran up to him.
“I’m sorry to interrupt you, Dr. Marriott,” the guard managed to say between wheezy pants. “Your wife is waiting for you in your office.”
The hair on the back of Herbert’s neck stood to attention. “What?” he hollered.
The guard’s crimson deepened. “She insisted I open the door. She didn’t look too happy.”
Herbert was already running down the hall back to his office. Through corridors and themed rooms, he raced. Down the stairs, he flew, nearly slamming into the wall at the bottom of each flight. His heart hammered madly, his lungs burned, but he had to get to Margaret before she sat on that accursed chair.
He burst into the lobby.
“You’re not allowed to run here!” someone shouted as Herbert weaved past shocked tourists.
Up the stairs on the other side of the lobby he sprinted. He had never realized how big the museum was.
At last, he saw his office door ajar.
“Margaret,” he rasped as he stumbled through the door.
She was ensconced on the Murder Seat, a photo-frame in her hands. Her head swung round, her features twisted with anger. “I found this facedown on the desk. No doubt you are too ashamed to look at it.”
He shielded his head with his arms as she threw it. It smashed at his feet, littering the tiled floor with glass shards.
He bent over, trying to catch his breath enough to speak.
“I know about her,” Margaret said, rising to her feet.
He straightened and rushed to her with open arms. “Forgive me,” he wheezed, but he wasn’t referring to his infidelity. It paled in comparison to his greater crime. He had murdered her as surely as if he had driven a knife into her heart. A lifetime of marriage flashed before his eyes. He had to find some way to save her. If he had the chair exorcised…
A cracking slap sent him reeling across the room. His head slammed against a filing cabinet.
Margaret’s whole body quaked. Was she about to have an epileptic fit? Tears welled in her eyes. A soft squeal expanded into a frenzied screech. This wasn’t the mild-mannered woman Herbert had known for thirty years. It was as if she had been possessed, possessed by the Murder Seat.
She dashed from the office, still screaming.
Without thinking, he probed the pain at the back of his head. His hair felt greasy. He examined his hand. It was covered in blood. How appropriate.
He needed to think. He tried to shake himself from his daze. He had to find her, calm her down. Before she harmed herself.
His leg rose to kick the chair but he stopped before it connected. Instead, he shook his fist at it. “If anything happens to her, I’ll chop you up for firewood!” This was what he had been reduced to—talking to furniture.
Desperate to find her, he raced from his office. Distance had already made her screaming faint. He dashed toward the muted sound, heedless of the shocked and disapproving stares of visitors and staff. His chest started to ache, but he pushed through the pain. The crying grew louder. He must be closing in.
It stopped. Slowing down to a walk, he continued in the direction from which it had come. Oh God, what might he find? Margaret lying facedown in some display room like a discarded doll?
A breath later, he found his wife in the arms of a sparse-haired young man in a brown three-piece suit, her face pressed against his shoulder as she whimpered. It took a moment to recognize his son. Through modern thick oversized glasses, Francis regarded Herbert with uncompromising disdain.
“I didn’t know you were visiting Dublin…” What was he doing here?
“I came over on the ferry this morning,” he said, pushing his glasses back up his nose. He turned to his mother. “I’ll be back in a few minutes,” he murmured. “Will you be okay by yourself?”
She nodded. “I’ll just pop to the toilet.” She directed Herbert a contemptuous glance. “If I can find a working one.”
She was always so quick to point out Herbert’s faults, even when they were not really his. He simply hadn’t the budget to keep every toilet in the museum functional…
Francis directed an accusatory finger at Herbert. “I want to speak with you in private.”
The only sound the two men made as they walked back to Herbert’s office was their breathing—Herbert’s desperate wheeze and Francis’ angry snort. What could Herbert say to placate his son? How could he explain that his indiscretion didn’t matter, that a greater crime had eclipsed it? If Francis understood the danger Margaret was in, he might be able to help undo the curse. He held a professorship in anthropology. He must know something about witchcraft.
But to do so, Herbert had to admit that he had brought the Murder Seat to his office. Eventually, he would have to own up to his purpose. He mulled over this dilemma as they entered his office.
“Don’t sit down on that chair!” he roared as Francis’ bottom descended on the Murder Seat, but the warning came too late.
Francis looked at him askance.
“Get off it!” Wasn’t Margaret enough for the damned chair? Now it had doomed Herbert’s son as well.
“What is wrong with you?” Francis asked, knitting his brows in confusion.
“Get up! Get up!” Herbert yelled, wildly tugging his son’s arm.
Francis shook his head as he stood. He glanced down at the outwardly ordinary chair and looked at Herbert with horror. “You’ve gone mad.”
“Get out. Please get out,” Herbert begged, massaging his forehead with trembling hands.
“I’m not staying,” his son said as he headed for the door. “You’ve plainly lost your mind.”
Herbert slammed the door shut after him, then slid down the varnished mahogany onto the floor and wept uncontrollably. Even Concepta’s life was precious. Her sins were trivial against his. He had become a monster.
What should he do? Destroy the seat? Call an exorcist in?
Someone tinkered with the lock and tried the door handle. The door shoved against Herbert’s back before admitting defeat. Had Francis come back?
Herbert checked his watch. It was half past seven. The time had flown so fast.
A knock on the door. “Cleaning.”
Until Herbert had a better idea about what he should do, he should return the accursed chair to its case.
“One moment,” he said, rising off the floor and wiping his tears. “Come in.”
The door slowly creaked open and the cleaner’s head peeped in. “Have you got a cold?”
“Yes,” Herbert said, pulling out his handkerchief and blowing his nose. “I need a favor. Remember that seat you brought here for me?”
She bit her lower lip and blushed. “I’ve a confession to make. When I was cleaning the floor, I put the chairs on the desk. I think…no, I’m sure…I mixed up the two seats when I put them back.”
So Herbert’s family was safe, as was Concepta. Her stomach bug must have been a coincidence. It was such a relief, Herbert might have kissed the cleaner.
Then a tingling chill sliced up his spine, robbing his joy. He had been sitting on the Murder Seat the whole time!
“Are you all right?” the cleaner asked. “You look pale.”
Herbert had enough. He lunged over his desk, grabbed the Murder Seat, and banged it against the floor.
The cleaner’s eyes widened before she fled, shouting for the security guard.
Lifting the seat over his head, Herbert thrust it down again and again. The crunch of breaking wood made him redouble his effort. By the time he finished, the treacherous chair lay in pieces on the floor.
He laughed triumphantly as he glanced back at the cleaner and the old security guard staring at him from the door. The Murder Seat had been destroyed! Why had nobody else thought to do the same?
A nagging pain pricked his palm. He opened his hand and found a splinter stuck in his flesh. So, this was the best the Murder Seat could do in its death throes. Herbert giggled. Death throws might have been more accurate. He picked the splinter out and tossed it on the floor with the rest of the fragments.
He had conquered the Murder Seat! He would gather the pieces and burn them. No trace of it must survive.
A peculiar wooziness overcame him. He staggered across the spinning room and lunged for the desk, but he missed and hit the floor.
“I had better ring for an ambulance,” the guard said, his words fading as blackness engulfed Herbert.
Two days later, Herbert lay in a hospital ward dying. It was so damn hot. He boiled in these sweat-sodden sheets. His mouth was parched, his lips cracked and sore. The doctors claimed he had septicemia, but Herbert knew better. He had succumbed to the Murder Seat’s curse. At least that terrible piece of furniture would claim no more victims.
An icy hand touched his swollen arm. Francis sat beside him. “Awake again, I see.”
“I’m dying,” Herbert said.
Francis shook his head. “That’s not what the doctors say. You’re going to make a full recovery. You just have to be patient.” He frowned. “I have a bit of bad news, though. You remember the cleaner who found you? She died last night in a freak accident. A stone from a car hit her square in the forehead and killed her.”
So, the curse had taken her. Herbert had been a coward to use her in his scheme. Whatever about Concepta, the cleaner had been completely innocent. He would never escape the shame of what he had done, not even in death. His crimes already condemned him to hell. His only consolation was that he had destroyed the chair. Surely, that heroic act atoned a little for his sin.
“Oh, yes,” Francis said. His face reddened a little. “I have a present for you. I’ve been doing a little carpentry lately. I’ve made you a wooden mask. In the culture I’m studying, they are used to ward off evil spirits.”
“Thank you,” Herbert said, deeply moved. At least his son didn’t dismiss him as a raving maniac. And Herbert needed all the protection from evil that he could get.
Francis lifted something off the floor. He hesitated. “It’s not very good.”
“No need for modesty. Show me.”
The infernal grin of the mask Francis produced made Herbert shudder.
Francis shrugged. “It’s meant to be a smile.”
“It’s lovely,” Herbert insisted.
Francis’ sheepish smile broadened. “I got the wood for it from that chair you broke up in your office.”
So the Murder Seat had survived. And it now wore a face with which to leer in triumph at him.
Herbert couldn’t take any more. He screamed.
Francis called the nurses and helped them hold Herbert down.
“Calm down,” Francis urged.
But Herbert couldn’t calm down. Drugs couldn’t subdue him either. He couldn’t stop screaming…until he screamed himself to death.
A Word From The Author
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If you enjoyed The Murder Seat please check out my other stories at http://photocosm.org/ or join my email list at . You can also find me on Twitter (@noel_coughlan) and Facebook (Noel Coughlan – Writer).
Feel free to email me at to ask any questions or comments you have about this book. I love to hear from readers.
I want to thank the good people at Finish The Story for all their work—Bryan Thomas Schmidt (developmental and line editing), Claire Ashgrove (copy editing) and Alicia Dean (proofreading). I also want to thank Pamela Guerrieri-Cangioli from Proofed To Perfection for her additional copy editing and proofreading. A special thanks to Alison Quick, William Bitner, Matt Butterweck, and everyone else who took part in the cover poll.
About Noel Coughlan
I live with my wife and daughter in Ireland.
From a young age, I was always writing a book. Generally, the first page over and over. Sometimes, I even reached the second page before I had shredded the entire copy book.
In my teenage years, I wrote some poetry, some of which would make a Vogon blush.
When I was fourteen, I had a dream. It was of a world where the inhabitants believed that each hue of light was a separate god, and that matter was simply another form of light. Thus, the world of Elysion was born.
I tinkered with the idea for a couple of decades, putting together mythologies, histories, maps, etc., but world-building isn’t worth much without a gripping story. Finally, I discovered a tale so compelling I just had to write it—The Golden Rule Duology.
I also write other fantasy, science fiction, and horror stories.