Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Halloween Close Call--A Kiki Lowenstein Novella

Need a Kiki fix?
For less than a cup of coffee, you can read the most recent adventure of Kiki Lowenstein, “A Halloween Close Call.” Kiki Lowenstein is invited to a Halloween Party at Detective Chad Detweiler's parents' farm. But mysterious happenings around St. Louis have everyone on edge--and Kiki has a close encounter that leaves a surprising clue behind! This 10,000 + word novella is only $1.99 and available at A Close Call .
To get you started, here's a sample:

Chapter 1

“If it’s spooky or scary, count me out.”
Detective Chad Detweiler grinned at me. “Even if I’m there to hold your hand?”
“Sorry. I don’t do scary. I love Halloween but I draw the line at being frightened out of my mind. I get enough crummy surprises in my daily life, thank you,” and to underscore how adamant I was, I crossed my arms over my chest. But I couldn’t look stern for long. Not when I was around my friends, so I spoiled the impact by smiling. I know I did.
See, my name is Kiki Lowenstein, and I’m the original Mrs. Nice Guy. I like butterflies and rainbows, puppies and kittens, sugar and spice, and brightly colored flowers. I always make sure to get my daily quota of cute. You can never have too much cute in your life. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
“So the woman who stared down her husband’s murderer is a big ‘fraidy cat.” Johnny Chambers winked at me. Johnny has Bad Boy written all over him, whereas anyone can see that Detweiler is a Knight in Shining Armor.
I shrugged and stared off into the metal shelves where we kept excess merchandise for the scrapbook store where I work, Time in a Bottle. My friends and I were holding an impromptu get-together here, in the stockroom of the store, to discuss our plans for celebrating Halloween. But walking through a “haunted house,” one of those converted warehouses complete with “zombies” and “ghosts” and “monsters” did not appeal to me one bit. “I did what I had to do to survive. This is different. You all are talking about getting your wits scared out of you as a form of recreation. If that’s your idea of a good time, have at it, go ahead, love you to bits, but I’m taking a pass.”
I know I sounded a bit whiny. I couldn’t help it. Years ago, I learned the hard way that I have a very poor tolerance for spooky stuff. I’d gone with my late husband to a screening of Carrie, the movie made of the Stephen King book by the same name. That last scene where Carrie’s hand shoots up out of the grave had me so terrified I almost went into shock. My teeth chattered and I shook like the leaves on a maple sapling before a tornado hits. It took me weeks to calm down.
I was not interested in submitting myself to being jumped at, touched, or grabbed in the dark by people I didn’t know. Especially if they’re dressed like Frankenstein or the Mummy or even Count Dracula. Ugh.
No sirree. I’m not interest in paying to be shocked and surprised.
Detweiler laughed and pulled me close. “Come here, you.” He hugged me. I relaxed into his arms, a place where I always felt safe. Listening to the soft lub-lub-lub of his big heart reminded me that I wasn’t alone in this world. “If you don’t want to visit a haunted house, we’ll find another way to have fun on Halloween. No problem.”
I stayed in Detweiler’s arms, but rotated slightly so I could see my friends. Clancy and Johnny were joined by Laurel Wilkins and her fiancé Pastor Joe Riley. What a cute couple those two are. Joe and Laurel both are in their late twenties. When they walk by, people turn and stare because they are two exceptionally good-looking people. I mean, you feel like you’re in the company of Hollywood stars when you’re with the two of them. And nice? Shoot. You couldn’t find two sweeter people.
Clancy and Johnny aren’t really a couple, but they are pals, so they occasionally accompany each other rather than sit home alone. It’s an arrangement that suits both of them very well. Clancy could easily be mistaken for Jacqueline Kennedy, she’s got those dramatic, classy looks.
And Johnny, well, Johnny is a scamp. There’s a roguish side to his personality that comes through with every move he makes.
I hated disappointing all of them. They had their hearts set on celebrating this Halloween by all of us doing something special.
The question was, what?
Now that I’d put the kibosh on going through one of the many “haunted houses” that regularly sprang up this time of year all over the metro-St. Louis area, what would we do for fun?
“Look, I don’t want to be a party pooper. You all should go without me. I’ll be fine passing out candy at my house.” Of course, I didn’t mean a word of that. I would hate to be left out, but it did seem like giving everyone else permission to carry on was the gracious thing to do.
“Mo-om,” moaned Anya, my thirteen-year-old daughter, who had just joined us. “I’m too big to trick or treat. Sitting home on Halloween will be, like, totally boring. Geez.”
“I didn’t quit trick or treating until I was sixteen,” said Laurel. “But I understand what you mean, Anya. Don’t worry. We’ll think of something fun to do.”
“Kiki, we wouldn’t enjoy ourselves if you don’t come,” Clancy Whitehead patted me on the back as I pulled free from the big detective’s embrace.
“And Anya’s right. Sitting at home would be a drag. So, we’ll make another plan. I’ve never been overly fond of haunted houses either. Some of them are okay, but I was in one where this hand reached out and--”
“La-la-la-la-la,” I stuck both fingers in my ears and sang. “Don’t want to hear it!”
“Geez, Mom,” said Anya. “You are being such a baby about all this.”
“Anya-Banana, it’s okay. Your mom is just being honest with us. We’re all friends here. That’s the way good friends operate. They take each others’ wishes into account,” said Detweiler. He was the only adult officially authorized to call my darling daughter by her old nickname. The hunky detective and my daughter had a wonderful relationship. He was very careful to be totally respectful and clear about boundaries with her, and he was teaching her that sticking up for her rights and feelings was important. He’d seen too many teens talked into stupid stunts by their peers. And worse, he’d handled a grisly abuse case where the stepfather was molesting his stepdaughter. Detweiler, Anya and I had even discussed the situation over the dinner table one night, with him emphasizing that she should never hesitate to tell the authorities if someone acted inappropriately toward her or her friends. No matter how powerful the perpetrator seemed to be.
I could see that he was supporting me in nixing the haunted house to help Anya realize that friends don’t push friends into uncomfortable situations.
I have to admit, my heart was overflowing with love for my daughter and my new beau. I’d heard a lot of horror stories about women with kids getting involved and bad outcomes. But so far, the three of us had been able to discuss frankly any hiccups along the way to becoming a family.
One of those hiccups was melding with Detweiler’s parents, Louis and Thelma, as well as his sisters, Ginny and Patty. Since Detweiler and his wife Brenda were only officially separated, and not yet divorced, I wasn’t sure how the Detweiler family would feel about me. I thought I remembered hearing that Patty and Brenda were good friends. But I was afraid to ask.
Maybe Johnny was right. I can be a ‘fraidy cat. I know I sure do stick my head in the sand sometimes, so maybe I’m more like an ostrich.
“Don’t worry, Kiki. I’ll come up with something fun for us all to do on Halloween,” said Detweiler, giving my hand a gentle squeeze. “That includes you, Anya. My niece Emily has been asking about you. She wants to hear how your kitten is doing.”
Anya’s face broke into a huge smile. “Seymour is getting big. Wait ‘til I tell her about how Gracie picks him up and carries him around.”
Hearing her name, my wonderful harlequin Great Dane started to thump her tail happily. Gracie is totally besotted with Detweiler. She had managed to lean her entire body weight against his leg while we were all talking. Now she was looking up at him with moony brown eyes.
Yeah, no doubt about it. My life was full of love and happiness. This wonderful support system of friends gave me all sorts of self-confidence.
In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve never been more happy or secure.
But I still wasn’t willing to visit a haunted house.
Huh uh.
No way.
Hungry for more? Upload the entire novella in seconds from A Close Call.

Copyright 2010, Joanna Campbell Slan.


Dru said...

Loved getting my Kiki fix. Can't wait for the fourth book to hit the bookstore.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Thanks so much, Dru!

Linda O. Johnston said...

Intriguing beginning, Joanna...!