Copyright 2011 J.T. Warren

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to anything real is entirely coincidental.

This is for all the women in my life.

Special thanks to my first readers, LeeAnn Doherty and Karla Herrera, and immense gratitude to my wife for her steadfast support.

Victor Dolor went to the diner because two months ago a man killed five people there. The man was Hugo Herrera. He was forty-one, divorced, recently unemployed from a downsized-factory job, and had finally been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder from something that happened when he was a child. Victor scanned several online articles for more specifics about the childhood trauma but found nothing.

In response to Hugo's most recent therapy session with some high-priced psychologist, Hugo wrote a letter to The New York Times that said he was "sick of all the fucking shit and finally going to do something about all the worthless shits in the world." The Times did not print the letter. Two days after he mailed it, Hugo took his hunting rifle into the Alexis Diner just outside of Stone Creek, New York, and murdered five people.

It was a sign.

There had been many signs recently but the Hugo Herrera murders was the most significant. Everything was changing. The period of acquiescent apathy was over. The time of now was the dawning of the age of the great cleansing when humanity would rid itself of the living detritus, shed the human excrement clogging the world, and give birth to a new golden age of empowered living.

Victor had been chosen. He was a cleanser. Hugo had been a cleanser. Unlike Hugo, however, Victor was not about to kill in one grotesque orgy and then blow his own face off. Victor would help cleanse humanity but he would do it so he too could one day enjoy the fruits of his labor. The next world would be his.

He had also gone to the diner for the girl.

She was in a booth with her father off to the left. Victor did not let his glance linger over her smooth flesh or soft red hair. She did not look up.

Victor sat at the counter on a plush red stool. A young Mexican boy slid a place setting in front of him and produced a glass of ice water. Victor stared at it. In the journey to preserve the status quo, to stave off the inevitable shifting landscape of the cosmos and humanity, the powers that be kept the water supply bloated with mind-numbing drugs. People who drank from this endless reservoir of placation would be blind to the ensuing changes. They would be ignorant of all the signs the universe offered. The warnings.

Condensation trickled down the side of the glass like tears. Or clear-colored blood.

The swinging door to the kitchen opened and a middle-age woman in a black and turquoise uniform smiled at him. Deep wrinkles creased her face like the cracks in dried mud.

"Morning," she said to Victor. "Coffee?"

He smiled right back, nodded.

When she set down the glass he asked her about Hugo Herrera. He expected her face to pale rapidly, her meaty hands to grab at the counter and her throat to make some kind of choking, gasping noise that was really a cry for help. Instead, she shrugged and said she hadn't been working that day, but it was a horrible, horrible tragedy.

Victor slowly turned his coffee cup in a circle. It made the faintest scraping noise against the counter, almost like the sounds the mice in his basement made at night. "Any idea why he did it?" Victor sounded so calm, so damn normal, so average-Joe.

The waitress paused. "Everyone has a breaking point, I guess. Sounds to me like he just snapped. Or he was crazy."

"No doubt," Victor said. The aroma of fried sausage swarmed around him like poison gas. "But why here? Was he a regular?"

"I never heard of him until that day when Arlon, my boss, called and said some wackjob shot up the place. Killed five people, one of them was a waitress."

"You know her?"

"Sabrina? She was a new girl. Just out of high school, looking to save up for community college. She was a pretty thing. Such a shame."

Victor glanced around, merely for show. The diner was fairly busy this Saturday morning. People were engaged in conversations in the booths while scraping their forks across plates that must have been used a billion times. The only other patron at the counter, however, was an old man in a big, heavy coat. He was at the far end, a cup of coffee before him and a newspaper.

"Place seems to have bounced right back," Victor said. "Like it did after the last time."

The waitress nodded. "I didn't know what to expect. Thought I'd be out of a job. But Arlon reopened after three days, when the cops were done, of course, and people came back. Helps to be the only diner in a twenty-mile radius."

"I'm sure." Victor had lived in Stone Creek his whole life. The little town was squished on the corner of Orange County, New York, at the foot of Blood Mountain. The mountain was the second highest peak in the region next to Schunemunk Mountain, which, at almost seventeen-hundred-feet high, always got all the attention. Blood Mountain, however, had that killer name and the beauty that went with it.

"What did you mean, the last time?" the waitress asked.

"Some places are marked," he said.


"Cursed, I guess you'd say, but it's more than that."

"Uh-huh," she said. "What can I get you?"

"The coffee is fine for now, thanks."

"You just let me know." She winked.

Victor smiled back. What would she look like beneath his hunting knife? Would she still wink at him when he pushed it slowly into that soft spot at the base of her throat where her skin had started to sag?

She walked down to the old guy at the end of the counter and then made her way to the front of the diner where the rest of her customers waited in booths. Victor spun slowly on the stool as if he were maneuvering to get up, maybe head to the bathroom.

The girl and her father had only coffee and water so far. But they would soon be eating quite a large breakfast. They wanted to have enough energy to make it to a late lunch if not dinner. They would have eggs and bacon and pancakes and toast and hash browns. They would eat up because they thought it would help them.

He would watch them eat for a little while. Watch the way the girl, not a girl but a young woman, chewed her food. The way her jaw moved. The way her lips pursed open just slightly like offering some secret kiss.

He would watch and then he would go back to his car and eat the tuna fish sandwich waiting there.

He would leave five dollars on the counter and a full cup of coffee.


What you're reading is sample chapters of J.T. Warren's newest novel, Blood Mountain.
The book can be bought in it's entirety for the Amazon Kindle for $0.99.
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