Saturday Excerpt: Last Seen by Rick Mofina
Happy Saturday everyone! Let’s kick off the weekend with the beginning of a crime thriller. Last Seen by Rick Mofina features everything you need for a gripping suspenseful tale, so let’s dive right in!
About Last Seen:
They are the perfect family. But perfection is fragile.
Cal Hudson knows the world can be an ugly place. As a reporter for a big Chicago newspaper, Cal has journeyed into society’s darkest corners to expose the vilest crimes. But the world he and his devoted wife, Faith, share with their son is much nicer. They have made sure of it, creating a tranquil haven in suburban River Ridge to protect the person most precious to them.
Until the unthinkable happens, and nine-year-old Gage vanishes.
In a split second at a local carnival, the Hudsons’ storybook world begins unraveling. A frantic search starts to uncover splinters in their carefully crafted facade, revealing buried secrets that cast just as much suspicion on Cal and Faith as any ill-meaning stranger, and proving that the line between love and violence can disappear as suddenly as a child on a chaotic midway.
“You’re doomed!” the fat man on the stool said. He was missing two lower front teeth. Peppered stubble whorled on his cheeks; vines of long hair framed his face. His eyes locked on Gage as he ex- tended his hand, raising his voice over the chaos of the midway.
“Give me your ticket, kid.”
Smiling, Gage placed his ticket in the man’s red-stained palm, then raised his voice. “Hey, is that real blood?”
“You tell me, kid. Look where fate has brought you.” The fat man cast his tattooed arm back to the huge arching sign bearing blood-dripping words that proclaimed the attraction.
The Chambers of Dread: America’s Biggest Traveling World of Horrors!
“This is so cool!” Gage said.
“Cool? How old is your young soul?”
“How old are you?”
The man’s eyes narrowed into reptilian slits as he assessed Gage, then his dad, then his mom. They stayed on Mom long enough to border on being unsavory before coming back to Gage. Then the man knocked on the wooden advisory bolted to the metal barricade next to him.
Warning! This attraction may be too intense for pregnant women and people with heart conditions. It is not recommended for children under the age of 12 unless they are accompanied by an adult.
A fat finger, tipped with a long, yellowed and chipped fingernail, pointed at Gage. “Mark my words, kid. These Chambers is cursed. No one who enters is ever the same when, and if, they leave. Now’s the time to run home with your mama. Otherwise, move ahead. Next! You, there! You’re doomed!”
“Whoa!” Gage’s laugh betrayed excited nervousness as he and his parents inched forward in the crowded line that snaked between barricades to the entrance. The aroma of deep-fried food, grilled meat and cotton candy wafted from the food stands. He felt his mother’s hands on his shoulders before she leaned into his ear.
“You’re sure you’re okay to do this, sweetie?
You’re not too scared?”
“Mom, I’m not scared!”
“We could skip this and get something to eat over there.”
“He’s fine, Faith. You’re always babying him,” Gage’s dad said, while checking messages on his phone and texting responses.
Always working, Faith Hudson thought, irritated. It was as if his phone was part of his anatomy. Now he was dialing.
“Seriously, you’re calling someone?”
Phone pressed to his ear, Cal flashed his free palm to Faith, signaling her to quiet down. She bit her bottom lip, hesitating, then said what she was thinking. “And I was going to thank you for making time for us today.”
Cal never heard her, focused on his call. “Yeah, it’s Hudson,” he said into the receiver. “You gotta tell Stu the number’s wrong in the story—it’s fifty thousand, not five… Right. Good. Bye.”
He turned to his wife. “I’m sorry, what’d you say?”
Cal looked at her for a long moment while across from them the Polar Rocket erupted with a diesel roar, frenzied squeals and Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song. After absorbing everything that Faith’s silence screamed at him, Cal leaned into her ear.
“I had to make that call—it was important.”
“They’re always important calls.”
“I had to correct an editing error. What were you trying to tell me?”
She stared at him. “I was going to thank you for making time to be with us, but you’re not with us. You’re working.”
“Cripes. I’m here, Faith.”
“Please, don’t start.”
“No, no, I’m not.” Faith glimpsed the family behind them, the mother and father awkwardly pretending not to be watching them. Immediately Faith rubbed Cal’s shoulder lovingly and smiled for all to see. “Everything’s fine. Really.”
Sure, everything’s perfect, Calvin Hudson told himself, turning from Faith and scanning the top of the Mega-Roller Ferris wheel. She’d never truly understood his work, he thought. He was a journalist; it was in his DNA. The demands were 24/7. She never really grasped how deeply involved he was with his stories. He couldn’t just switch it off, like she insisted; or like she could at the PR firm. Now there were rumors of layoffs at his paper, the Chicago Star-News, making him uneasy. He had to work that much harder to prove he was still valuable to his editors. Jobs in the business were scarce. But the way Faith had said, “Don’t worry, we’ll get by on my salary and you’ll find something else,” had wounded him. How could she be so dismissive, as if his position in life didn’t matter, as if she wanted him to lose his job. She had no clue how much he’d given to it—his blood, sweat and tears along with much of his soul. She had no idea the things he’d done.