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Night Cries

Night Cries

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Night Cries

268 pagine
4 ore
Jul 29, 2017


She's a successful journalist in love with a married man. In an effort to heal from her past, she uncovers a sex scandal that rocks Chicago and threatens her life.

After being fired from her job, she flees to small-town Wisconsin, where she must deal with the consequences of a one-night stand. Through all the upheaval, she never forgets the sister she left behind.

Years ago, she was on a destructive path of drugs and prostitution, and one man offered a way out. But marriage to Kurt is now a trap.

Her husband has one driving ambition: to make it as a first-rate restaurateur. When a competitor steals his clients, he's forced to fight for survival. The only thing he never counted on losing is his wife. He'll do anything to get her back, even if someone must die.

Jul 29, 2017

Informazioni sull'autore

Thelma began writing fiction in the confessions field, where she sold over 40 stories to women's magazines (such as True Story, True Confessions and True Experience) put out by NYC publishers in the days of mass readership. SeaStruck, a paranormal romance, is her most recent novel. She also authored two other novels, ConneXions (psychological suspense) and Night Cries (women's fiction). After a long business career, she left to become a life coach and motivational speaker. For 10 years, she encouraged others to go after their dreams. This led her back to her OWN dream of working on fiction, as both an author and editor. Thelma likes teamwork and enjoys working with other writers to help them strengthen and improve their work. It's natural for her to inspire and motivate others. She recently launched a website to offer her services as a Freelance Editor for writers of women's contemporary fiction. You can visit her at or contact her by email at Thanks for stopping by!

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Anteprima del libro

Night Cries - Thelma Mariano


Chapter One

Erica paused as she framed the next question, glancing around the sidewalk café. Their corner table afforded a view of shoppers and cars cruising Dearborn but was quiet enough for a private conversation. Right now, her digital voice recorder was probably picking up the Texan drawl coming from the next table. Tourists loved Chicago this time of year.

She longed to cut this short, do anything but interview the woman facing her. Her answer, she knew, would only confirm what she already felt in her gut.

You were only thirteen, she forced herself to say. Why did you leave home? And how did you survive on your own?

The old man was hittin' on me. I couldn't get anyone to stop him. Finally I had enough. The woman's eyes darkened. Then I learned I could get paid for what I was givin' away.

You sold yourself? In late August, the temperature still hovered in the high eighties as a hot breeze stirred the air. To Erica, it felt like a cold snap. Goosebumps raced up her arms under the silk blouse. The woman in the faded dress, who kept clasping and unclasping her hands, blurred before her.

Memories rushed at her - strong hands holding her down, half-naked men in shirts and ties, the damp basement floor, her lungs smarting from the harsh smoke of cigarillos. And knowing, through it all, that her sister slept safely upstairs.

She pushed the unwelcome images back to the recesses of her mind and shook her head to clear it. Realizing that she had missed something, she said, Come again?

Either that or starve. You ever been so hungry that a week-old crust of bread looks good? The woman threaded her fingers through the stringy hair that fell to her shoulders. In spite of her unpolished appearance, the strength in her jaw and the erect way she held herself commanded respect. I had a pimp. Tried to run off a few times, but he always found me. Beat me like his other girls. Then he got careless, and someone knifed him. After he was gone, I sat myself down and had a good think. Had to be a better way to make a living.

You got off the streets? Erica looked at the voice recorder. Good, the red light held steady.

The other woman took a sip of her café au lait and carefully set the cup down. Found a job washing dishes. Didn't pay much, but I found a cheap boarding room. And I was pregnant with Cliff, my son. The glow on her face transformed it, smoothing out the lines.

Erica tried to imagine what a struggle it must have been. Being poor and pregnant couldn't have been easy. On her reporter's pad, she scribbled the words prime motive for change: becoming a parent. How old is he now?

Going on six. A real little man. When I can't take anymore, workin' two jobs, I take one look at him. I figure I must've done something right to have such a beautiful child. Even when he's bad, he smiles that crooked smile of his, and I just melt.

Two jobs? What do you do? Erica now saw the tiredness in her wan features.

I clean people's houses during the day. Places with nice furniture and rooms so big they hafta shout to be heard. At night, I wait tables at a diner. Both jobs together don't add to much, but it's the best I can do. She frowned. Cliff won't end up like me. I'll make darn sure of that.

This kind of experience was perfect for Erica's feature on high school dropouts. Ten years later, most of them led difficult lives. Are you sorry you dropped out of school?

Her interviewee scraped back her chair and leaned forward, meeting Erica's eyes. That's why I came. Too many kids think they're cool, skippin' school. But you don't get nowhere without an education. Me, I had no choice. She picked up her purse, a sagging bag with spindly straps. Those kids, they have a choice. Tell 'em.

I will. Thanks so much for your time. Erica clicked off the recorder and stood to shake her hand. Can I give you a lift?

Shaking her head, the woman pushed her way between the tables before disappearing into the stream of people on the sidewalk.

A few minutes later, Erica pulled away from the café in her Civic Coupe. When she reached Chicago Avenue, she could only inch along in the mid-afternoon traffic. The car was stuffy; her air conditioning had stopped functioning. She opened the window and breathed deeply until the stale smell of exhaust made her roll it back up. The bottleneck started to test her patience. Finally she made a right on Wabash, heading for the river and the office tower on its opposite bank.

Tracking down the dropouts had been her biggest challenge. Her only criteria was that they had quit high school at least ten years ago. School records showed that many of them had moved out of the city. She was able to locate eleven dropouts. Eight agreed to interviews, three over the phone. She knew her material could be shaped into a first-rate story. Good enough, she hoped, to land the new job.

Erica glanced at the time as she pulled into the parking lot. Damn. She would have to rush to meet tomorrow's deadline. Entering the glass-and-chrome building that housed The Chicago Times, she felt a familiar surge of pride. Working the city beat as a reporter had been a dream come true, and she had done it for five years.

On the 8th floor she strode past the glass doors into the newsroom. Although the Times had downsized in recent years, staff writers and editors still scurried around desks or hunched over keyboards. The hive of activity had a calming effect on her. She felt at home here, able to lose herself in the frenzy of getting the news out. It meant tight deadlines and long hours. Fires, holdups, demonstrations - she had to be there whenever a story broke.

Much as she thrived on challenge, she had eventually grown tired of the format. Newswriting had to be concise, and she longed for in-depth coverage. The opening in their Life section had immediately appealed to her. Feature articles often dealt with social issues, and she knew she could make a difference.

A copy editor brushed past her. Mel's asking for you. Wants to see you in his office.

Her write-up would have to wait. She strode to the city editor's office at the back of the newsroom. The blinds were shuttered. Was he even in?

She opened the door a crack. Through the slit, she saw Christine massaging Mel's neck. Her fingers moved rhythmically under his collar as he leaned back in his swivel chair, his eyes closed in obvious enjoyment.

Typical of Christine, their other city reporter. Why didn't Mel see through her? Did he even ask himself why someone with her looks bothered with a balding, middle-aged man?

You wanted me? Erica pushed the door open and stepped inside the room. She frowned at Christine, who now worked on Mel's shoulders.

Sore muscles. She offered, he said with a shrug. Straightening in his chair, he looked up at the blonde. Thanks. That's much better.

As Christine sashayed out of his office, Erica followed her shapely form with her eyes. Such a short, tight skirt should have been banned. Small-boned and barely breaking five feet in her stockinged feet, she appealed to men's protective instincts. They never saw how easily she manipulated them.

Mel picked up some papers from his desk and cleared his throat. Your report on the sculpture thefts lacks detail. I was hoping for more of an inside scoop - how long the sculptors have been at it, if they sold any pieces.

I have their bios. I didn't think you wanted … she said.

Human interest, remember? I expect quality, no matter what ELSE you're doing with your time.

Of course, he referred to the opening in their Life section, which both she and Christine were trying for. They had until tomorrow to prepare an in-depth feature. Since their newsroom experience was similar, their candidacy would be based on that single submission. Fortunately, deciding who got the position was not up to Mel.

Erica felt the heat rise in her face. That's B.S., she said. My daily reporting hasn't suffered. I met all your deadlines. And that's only because I squeezed the other interviews into my free time, not that there's ever enough.

Naturally he had nothing negative to say about Christine. She arrived late most mornings and still snagged the easy assignments. That didn't bother Erica as much as his criticism of her work. She was, above all, a professional journalist.

No need to get on your high horse. Neither of us wants mediocre copy, do we? And I know what you're capable of. He slid the papers across the desk. Fix this up and I'll look at it again.

Sixty minutes later, Erica submitted a revised report. Then she got started on her feature on high school dropouts. As she composed a lead-in to her article, she again heard the voices of people she had spoken to.

One woman, now a sales clerk, had managed to get her diploma at night. If I'd known how much trouble I'd have getting that piece of paper, I would have stayed in class, she said. Working during the day and going to school at night's a killer.

A young man who had dropped out of Lake View High now worked at a dry-cleaners. You can't use my real name, he told her. My employers never checked my records.

Burned out, regretful, each interviewee said don't do what I did. Times are tough enough without cutting your chances. Finish high school. Go on to college or university if you can.

A shadow fell across her desk as Christine passed by on her way out. Poor thing - you look exhausted. I wouldn't get my hopes up on that job, though. Not when it's got MY name all over it.

Must be invisible ink, Erica answered. The last time I checked, the only thing being considered was our writing skills. She squinted at her screen. It had been a long day and she was running on little more than adrenalin.

We'll see, won't we? The other reporter's heels clicked across the floor as she headed for the door.

Erica knew why Christine wanted the job - more money, more prestige, and regular hours. And maybe she'd get it, too. She had picked a hot topic: keys to success in online dating.

Doubts lingered in Erica's mind like unwanted guests as she reached for the rest of her notes in the desk drawer. She wondered if Ryan, their Life editor, would be impressed by her piece. How much of his evaluation would be based on content, how much on style?

She flipped through the writing pads she had used for her interviews. One of them was missing. Two days ago, she had taken them out and put them in sequence before clearing some papers from her desk. The trash had since been picked up; her wastepaper basket was almost empty.

Erica checked the other drawers and then the surface of her desk. Nada. Same for her briefcase. How was this even possible? She had always been so careful with her research.

Had someone stolen her notes? The only person with a motive was Christine, and much as she disliked her, Erica didn't believe she would stoop to foul play. They both had a good shot at this job. She must have accidentally tossed the notepad into the bin when clearing her desk.

Drat! Now she had to re-construct a third of her work. At least she still had the recordings of her interviews. The newsroom had emptied out in the last hour. Suddenly she longed for the comfort of her apartment. Feeling discouraged, she packed up her materials and headed home. She had been up since 5:00 a.m. and it was going to be a long night.

Home was a one-bedroom apartment in Oak Park, a thirty-minute drive from the office. Erica liked the security of indoor parking, as well as the convenience of a near-by supermarket and pharmacy that stayed open late. As she rode up to the eleventh floor, she nodded at another tenant riding the elevator. The elderly woman nodded back. She was one of the few neighbors that Erica continued to see. Most of them eventually moved on - to other floors, other buildings or other cities.

Erica liked the anonymity of high-rise living. No one tried to get too friendly or personal.

A two-tone whistle greeted her as she entered her apartment. The wolf whistle was a perfect imitation; construction workers had nothing on her pet cockatiel.

You know how to make a woman feel wanted, don't you? Especially after the day I had. How's Spike? she said, going over to open the bird's cage. Like his name, the yellow feathers on his head tufted in a crest, and the red patches on his cheeks offered a colorful contrast.

He immediately flew to her shoulder, and she reached up a hand to stroke his gray and white plumage.

Why don't you fly around a bit? she said after a few moments, sending him wheeling around the room in graceful loops before he landed on top of a bookshelf. As Erica started to unbutton her blouse, she heard another wolf whistle. Funny bird.

She had bought the cockatiel from a pet store after moving here, not knowing if she could handle the responsibility of looking after him. Spike, though, had quickly won her over.

After pouring fresh seeds into his dish and changing his water, she fetched some yogurt and fruit for her own dinner. Watching Spike eat always amused her. He pounced on the new seeds as if he hadn't seen food in days. She latched the cage door again, promising to let him out later.

Next came a quick shower. The hot spray felt heavenly but she couldn't afford to dawdle, not with the writing ahead. In her bedroom, she changed into jeans and a worn T-shirt.

For a moment she stared at the photograph in an oval frame on her dresser. In it, she had her arm around her sister's shoulders as they both smiled for the camera. Their shining eyes reflected the innocence of youth, an innocence that would soon be shattered. It was the only photograph that Erica had of Lindsey. Over the years, she had gazed at it so often that she needed to remind herself that her sister was now a grown woman.

There was no time to sift through the past; she had a feature to finish. She settled herself in front of the laptop on a small table in her living room, the digital recorder at her elbow. Her exhaustion dropped away as she focused on the text on her screen. Ryan had to give her the job.

Only one thought kept her going: I'm going to hand in the best damn feature he's ever seen.

Chapter Two

Erica's cell rang twice before she picked it up. It was probably a wrong number; Philip never called at night. On the evenings she didn't see him, she buried herself in work or spent hours at her fitness club. Anything was better than thinking of him with his wife and family.

We need to talk. Philip's voice, usually rich and melodious, sounded strained. Susan knows about us.

She held the phone so tightly that she could see the faint blue veins below the skin on her hand. Hadn't she known this would happen one day? Stolen hours, enchanted evenings - they couldn't last. Her throat went dry. What did she say?

For a moment he was silent. Can I come over? I can't do this over the phone.

Not tonight. Her words were sharper than she had intended. I have to finish a feature for tomorrow. Philip naturally wanted to soften the blow. He'd kiss her tenderly, tell her how sorry he was that their relationship had to end. And she couldn't deal with any of it right now.

But this is important, he insisted. Can't you find thirty minutes?

She shook her head, although he couldn't see her. I have to submit this feature tomorrow morning. I told you about the position in Life, didn't I? Too many times she had twisted her schedule to fit Philip in at last-minute notice. He had probably come to expect it.

I always did have lousy timing, he said. Tomorrow night, then? After you finish?

She agreed to a rendezvous before turning off her cell.

When she settled herself at her laptop again, the words on the screen swarmed in and out of her vision. In frustration, she got up and walked up and down her hallway. Bare expanses of the hardwood floor gleamed on both sides of a thick Persian rug. Here, as in the rest of her apartment, she had given herself the comfort of softness underfoot without hiding the floor's natural beauty. Her home increasingly reflected her taste after so many years of being no more than a refuge.

As she paced, she wished she had a cigarette, even if she didn't smoke.

How had his wife found out? Maybe someone had seen them together, or Susan had confronted him with her growing suspicions. How could a woman not pick up clues? The way he turned away from her, the unfamiliar scent on his clothes, maybe a few strands of Erica's reddish-brown hair on his jacket. It could have been anything.

Two years ago they had met at Erica's fitness club in Oak Park as he helped her with some of the weights. From the moment Philip came in, she noticed his lean body in the Nike shorts and the styled hair that somehow enhanced his masculinity. In spite of his easy charm, she kept her distance at first.

Now she stepped over to the living room window and glanced at the darkening clouds overhead. The weatherman had predicted showers for tonight. The rain, she remembered with a pang, had brought them together the second time she saw him.

A storm system had swept through the city that evening. After finishing up at the gym, Erica waited at the door for the downpour to subside.

Philip suddenly stood beside her with his gym bag, watching the drops furiously pelt the pavement. It doesn't look like it's going to let up. Do you need a ride?

I feel so stupid. I should have taken my car, but I couldn't resist a walk.

Life would be awfully dull if we never took risks, he said. Something in his smile made her pulse quicken. Do you live around here?

Five blocks away.

He swung his BMW around, and pushed the passenger door open for her. It doesn't take long to get soaked. Get in. His jacket and trousers were already drenched from his dash to the car. Another man might be annoyed, but his good humor seemed intact.

I used to run in the rain as a child, she said. Barefoot if I could get away with it. Something about him made her relax, knowing she could be herself and say whatever came to mind.

He gave her a quick smile. My speciality was puddles, the muddier the better. I miss those carefree days of my youth, though I daresay my mother doesn't. His hands on the steering wheel looked both strong and supple. And slightly tanned.

When they pulled up outside her apartment building, Erica didn't want their conversation to end. She offered him a coffee as they waited for the storm to pass over. Proving her right, more heavy thunder rolled overhead. She averted her eyes from the gold band gleaming on his left hand. Just because he was married didn't mean they couldn't be friends.

Friends? Erica shook her head as she returned to her feature on high school dropouts. How could she have been so naïve? The attraction had been so strong that they began sleeping together within one month. And if he had been single, it wouldn't have taken that long.

It was well past midnight when she finally logged off the computer. Her feature still needed editing, but it would have to wait until tomorrow. Every muscle in her body ached with fatigue. As she gratefully crawled into bed, she sighed with relief. At least she had given the article her best shot.


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