Excerpt: "Terror Comes Knocking" by @aplazar

Title: Terror Comes Knocking

Author: Aaron Paul Lazar
Twitter: @aplazar

Synopsis: Sam’s daughter Beth has been unreachable for several days. Something is seriously wrong, and the Moores don’t know where to turn for help. No ransom note arrives, no kidnapper calls. When Beth’s roommate Zafina Azziz – a woman who slinks around like an Egyptian princess-- arrives on their doorstep worried about Beth’s whereabouts, Sam realizes it’s time to call the FBI.

The Moores unravel with worry as the green marble, a talisman connected to Sam’s dead brother Billy, thrusts Sam between past and present. When Sam’s friend, Senator Bruce MacDonald, is tapped for the Presidential nomination, the town goes berserk preparing to welcome the sitting President to the opening of a new arts center. That’s when Sam uncovers the awful truth - someone is out to destroy the soon-to-visit President, and that someone is alive and well in East Goodland.

When he discovers a link between Beth and the terrorists, Sam dives head first into the melée to avert a calamity that could rival the 911 disaster.

Excerpt: Chapter 1

Sam stood over his brother's grave. A curious combination of sorrow and liberation flitted through him. Like a tapestry of death, its weave created patterns of loss and love that gutted his soul, twisting him inside.

The agony of grieving again for his little brother had hit him hard. Although he'd mourned in stages since Billy disappeared fifty years ago, he'd never had closure. Until now. A week ago, his three best childhood friends admitted to burying Billy's body in the pool near Healey's Cave. When the boy had slipped from the crossing log and slammed his head in a lethal fall, they'd panicked, afraid of being charged with murder. Their childish fears escalated, and they'd pinned Billy beneath heavy stones, his eyes wide open and dulled, hair waving in the water, skin wrinkled like prunes.

Sam shook himself.

Stop it. Stop torturing yourself.

He glanced at his SUV sitting under the shade a hundred yards away, its four doors gaped open to provide relief from the heat. With her motorized scooter parked alongside, his wife of forty years, Rachel, perched sideways on the passenger seat, a cell phone clamped to her ear. Their grandson Evan rhythmically tossed and caught a softball nearby. They'd accompanied him to the gravesite and had left after his request for a few minutes alone.

To think. To stare at the earth. To remember that the physical markers of Billy's young life were just that. Placeholders. Reminders. Cold ground and stone.

Someone else's funeral on the nearby hill ended, and its mourners scattered like dandelion feathers in the wind. Sam watched them drift toward the parking lot for a moment, then turned back to the grave.

He fingered the green marble in his pocket and looked up to the cirrus clouds that stalled overhead. Chalk white against a steel gray sky, they paused in their frenetic journey as if trying to get his attention.

I know you're not really in the ground, Billy. I know you're up there.

The cottonwood leaves rustled overhead, stirring in a breeze that came from out of nowhere.


The marble warmed his fingers in response—his talisman, his connection with Billy's spirit. He closed his hand around it so the people walking by wouldn't see the glow of green blushing through his khakis.

The marble pulsed. Sam's heart skipped a beat.

Billy's spirit hovered in the clouds, the leaves, and in Sam's heart. His very essence connected through the marble Sam clenched in his hand.

A cardinal hopped down from a nearby branch. He perched on the headstone, cocked his head at Sam, and twittered. "Weeka. Weeka."

Sam refocused and straightened. A wry smile stole across his face. He nodded toward the bird. "You're right. I should be going. They're waiting for me."

He headed for the parking lot, ambling under a sugar maple that arched overhead and cooled the grass below. He left its comfort and moved into the bright August sunshine, his steps lighter now.

A pair of young men hovered over a new grave, arguing. One man gesticulated wildly, flapping a bouquet of flowers back and forth. The stems bent and petals showered the mound of dirt below. As Sam passed, they turned their backs and lowered their voices.

Arabic? Sam thought. Strange. But not completely. The local college in Conaroga, New York, attracted students from all over the world.

The taller man hissed when he spoke. Sam couldn't help but notice that no sense of grief arose from his tight posture and hot words. There was no quietude born of loss. No sloping shoulders from the cold misery that accompanies death.

Sam shrugged mentally and moved on, disturbed by the intensity of the argument he'd overheard.

When he reached the Highlander, Rachel looked up at him. Gray bangs kissed her forehead and fluttered in the light breeze. She snapped her phone shut and slid it into her purse.

"Beth?" Sam asked.

She shook her head. "No. I still can't reach her. I'm worried, Sam."

Sam patted her hand, leaning on the roof. "I'm sure there's an explanation. She might've gone away for a few days, maybe with her roommate, Zafina. She's done it before."

"I know. But she usually sends me an email. She doesn't like to worry us."

He straightened and nodded. "Wasn't Zafina's brother supposed to visit soon? First time in the country and all? Maybe they took him on a tour of the area. Let's try her again tonight. Did you try her work number and her cell?"

"Mmmhmm. Got her voice mail every time."

Sam walked around and started the car, pushing the air conditioner to max. He helped Rachel slide onto the passenger seat and watched as she buckled up. "All set?"

She smiled. "I'm good."

He closed her door and walked around to Evan. "You okay, sport?" He slid an arm around the boy's shoulders.

Evan leaned into Sam's chest, wrapping an arm around his middle. He squeezed, then stepped back and looked up into Sam's face. "I'm okay. How ‘bout you?"

Sam didn't hesitate. "I won't lie to you, son. It's been hard. Very hard." He lowered the ramp for the scooter, then guided it inside. "But I'm okay. Now, let's go get your little brother."