Tuesday, January 15, 2013
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Book Spotlight: Adrian Lilly's THE DEVIL YOU KNOW
The Devil You Know
Author: Adrian W. Lilly
Word count: 79,000
Cost: 99 cents
No cell phone. No computer. No contact with the outside world … And no way out!
With her father dying of cancer, 17-year-old Julie Collins and her parents move from Chicago to her father’s childhood home where he wishes to die. The house is a Victorian mansion on an isolated lake in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
The long abandoned home offers no familiar comfort. The TV hasn’t arrived, her cell phone can’t catch a signal, and her laptop has no connection. Worse yet, her new school is a one-room shack. Grieving and lonely, Julie feels life can’t get any worse.
Boredom lures Julie to the forbidden, burned library of the house, where her father said his parents died. But Julie encounters the restless spirit of a burning teenage boy.
Then he appears in her bedroom.
He tells her to kill her parents.
And Julie soon realizes hell can exist on earth …
20 Years Earlier
Like shadows stretching long on an autumn evening, haunting visions had encroached on Miranda since the day she set foot in the old Victorian mansion. The oppression of the house settled on her like the dust and dank smell that loomed in the many corridors and alcoves. Each day the visions grew stronger, darker, until only the shadows remained, until the shadows were all she believed. The life she had known grew distant like a friend in a rearview mirror.
Curled in a ball on her bed, Miranda rocked herself, tears squeezing past her clenched eyelids. Her face pinched in resolution. She was prepared to obey the vision she had seen: the boy who walked in flames without burning.
She had seen him many times; from the flames he had beckoned to her. The fire that surrounded him snaked out to engulf her. He first appeared to her in the forbidden, burned library, and she fainted. When she awoke, she lay on the floor, panting and sweating and smeared with char from the darkened floor. The sound of his cries lingered in her ears.
And the cries of the many faces she saw spiraling in the flame.
Miranda clenched her fists as her body shivered. So many faces, so many cries for help. But could she do it? She wondered. Could she do what they told her to do?
The floorboards outside her bedroom door creaked. Her eyes bolted open as she listened to her parents in the hallway. Their whispers echoed in the house, their voices like the dry and brittle pages from an ancient text. She kneaded her fingers into the sheets, balling the sheets beneath her as she listened to their labored breathing and methodical pacing.
She would do just as the burning boy had instructed her. Miranda flung her legs over the edge of the bed and laced her high top sneakers all the way up her ankles. She knew she would spend much of the night running. She rose from the bed—flinching as the floor creaked—then proceeded to the large wardrobe against the wall. Miranda dug in her jeans pocket and removed a skeleton key.
Just as the boy instructed her, Miranda placed the key in a drawer and pushed it shut. She rested her head against the wardrobe and sat in silence, her hands folded against her closed lips. Miranda turned her eyes to the window. Night was falling. The trees traced a dark silhouette, their dead leaves clinging like shipwreck survivors in a black sea. The distant edge of the horizon burned red and yellow in the fading light.
Miranda reached under her bed and grabbed the claw hammer she had hidden there. Hefting the weight in her hand, Miranda struck the air a few times at head level. Yes, this would work…wouldn’t it? Eyes closed, Miranda focused, trying to block out the voices that echoed to her across time. She needed no distractions. She knew what she must do.
Tonight, she had to kill her parents.
Julie breathed deeply, taking in the smell of the old books, a scent both pungent and sweet. The used bookstore in Chicago’s Grant Park neighborhood was her favorite Saturday hangout. She thumbed a few books before glancing at her best friend, Marie-Do, who was sitting in an old, comfy chair, reading a book she had found. Her legs tucked under her, she scanned the book, completely engrossed.
Julie smiled despite herself. This was something of a ritual: coffee, old books, conversation about issues most their age didn’t even care about. She and Marie-Do had been inseparably linked since their eighth grade year. They had shared the prerequisite best friend triumphs and agonies: grades, first dates, death (a parakeet and two cats), driver licenses, and Julie’s father’s cancer—and now her move.
“What’d you find, Frenchy?” Julie teased her friend. Marie-Do lived in France until she was eight. Marie-Do’s mother recounted on numerous occasions how she had studied abroad in France and admitted to being the stereotypical American abroad swept off her feet by the intelligent, verbose Frenchman whom she would later marry in a Gothic cathedral. Retelling the story always lit up her mother’s eyes and brought romantic longing to Julie, who never tired of the story, unlike Marie-Do.
Marie-Do pulled a strand of her shiny, chestnut hair from her face. She tucked it behind her ear. “Don’t you mean Marie-Dew?” Marie-Do replied, mispronouncing her own name.
Julie’s mother, who insisted on the utmost etiquette including full names, refused to call Julie anything but Juliana and purposefully mispronounced Marie-Dough for Marie-Dew in a protest to Marie-Do not using her full name, Marie-Dominique. “My mother is a piece of work.”
Marie-Do laughed as she stood to meet Julie at the bookshelves. Marie-Do’s pale skin, petite frame, full lips, and small, slender nose were just the same as her mother’s. But her full chestnut hair and intense brown eyes came from her father. She was indefatigable and that also came from her father. As a philosopher and theologian, he analyzed constantly and inspired Marie-Do’s critical gaze and questioning nature.
Julie brushed her fingers through her long, dark brown hair. At times she considered chopping it off (like this one as a ring caught in the curls) but Marie-Do would plead: No, the curls are too beautiful—despite the fact that she kept her own hair short and sleek, falling around her ears.
Marie-Do looked at Julie contemplatively. “You know, I wonder if Madame Green ever thought she’d create best friends when she made me your study partner back in eighth grade.”
“She was probably hoping you’d become disgusted and kill me.”
Marie-Do chuckled. “There were times when I thought about it.”
Julie huffed and shoved Marie-Do playfully. “Your best trick, though, is the bogus accent you don for boys. ‘Oh, monsieur, I am jus’ a poor French girl, who ees lost and needs yer ‘elp to find ‘er way.’”
“Oh, please, my accent is much better than that!”
“You wish!” Julie laughed.
“It’s good to see you laugh.”
“You can always make me laugh.”
“I’m going to miss you.”
Julie shook her head and said, “We’re saving that for tomorrow. Today we’re happy.”
“You mean d’accord,” Julie said in her best French. Julie and Marie-Do knew that their use of French was affected, but they loved the language nonetheless. They had already pledged to study together in France during college.
Julie turned her attention to the large hardcover book clutched to Marie-Do’s chest. “What’s that book you’re clutching on to so tightly?”
Marie-Do looked down at the book as she flipped it around to display the cover. “Isn’t this a riot?” She said. The book was entitled Witches, Warlocks, and Demons: The Whole Story.
“A fun read.”
Marie-Do wrinkled her nose with mischief. “I’m gonna get it.”
“It’s only $10.”
“You could buy me a latte with that $10.”
“I’ll buy you a latte anyway,” Marie-Do offered. “Besides, when did you become frugal?”
“D’accord. You got me there.”
“Did you find anything for the ride to—”
“Don’t say it!”
“Upper Michigan,” Marie-Do finished.
Julie sighed histrionically. “I said not to say it. Why there? I didn’t even know we owned a house in the UP.” Julie leaned against the bookshelf and looked Marie-Do in the eyes. In one short day she was leaving her best friend of five years to move to the UP—and during her senior year. She felt a pang of guilt that these were even concerns. After all, her father was recuperating from cancer.
Marie-Do seemed capable of reading her mind. “You know, you shouldn’t feel guilty, not for thinking about college.”
Julie nodded her head. “I just, I want to be there for him, you know?”
“I know. But, he’s getting better, how much—” Marie-Do paused, rethinking. “The last thing you want to do is regret not going for the rest of your life.”
“What are you saying?”
Marie-Do sighed. “Well, maybe it won’t be that bad. Maybe you can stay for a while, then come live with me and visit your dad on weekends.” Marie-Do looked at Julie’s quivering lip. Fighting her own sense of loss, she quipped, “Your leaving’s completely incongruous with a happy atmosphere.”
Julie laughed, knowing that had been Marie-Do’s goal. Madame Green, the same teacher who had introduced them, later regretted it; she often complained that Julie and Marie-Do’s talking was ‘incongruous with a happy classroom atmosphere.’ It had since been Julie and Marie-Do’s catch phrase.
Marie-Do giggled. “I hated her.”
Julie lit up suddenly. “Maybe I can get expelled from school there.”
“A bit extreme but a possibility.” Marie-Do draped her arm around her friend’s shoulders.
“You’ll see. It won’t be that bad.”
Julie frowned. “You’re not the one moving to hell.”
Julie never tired of shopping in the bustling Magnificent Mile. Given any opportunity, she would surely choose walking the streets through the shopping district over a suburban mall. The detail of the old, refined stores appealed to her, and the juxtaposition with the new, gleaming structures made each trip feel like an experience. Julie pushed a glass door open and held it as her mother jaunted out onto the crowded sidewalk.
The sidewalk was bustling with a mixture of tourists, business people and locals. A mother clutched her children like a string of ducklings, eyeing each passerby suspiciously while consulting a street map. A small group of teens laughed too loudly as they exited a coffeehouse. A group of pedestrians stampeded off the sidewalk to reach their destination between the short-lived white WALK sign and angry red-warning beacon of the DON’T WALK sign. Horns honked and cars revved as lights changed and the echo of the sound bouncing off the buildings was thunderous.
Julie took a deep breath, smelling the faint scent of Lake Michigan above the exhaust fumes and mixture of food smells and fresh roasted coffee beans.
Julie loved the city.
Walking from Saks Fifth Avenue, Julie felt like a pack mule. She leaned against the outside wall and said to her mother, Diana, “We still haven’t talked about Marie-Do’s offer.” She let her many bags rest on the sidewalk as she looked into her mother’s eyes.
The smile faded from Diana’s face and she nodded. “Okay, Juliana, we’ll discuss it.” Diana turned to face Julie. “Let’s get lunch, and we’ll talk.”
“Where do you want to eat?”
“Oh, honestly, Juliana, I don’t care.”
Diana’s tone took Julie by surprise. She was seldom short with Julie. “Italian?”
Diana nodded, her fingers pressed to her temple. Julie led the way to an Italian bistro, and after they were seated asked her mother, “So what is it?”
Diana turned away from her open compact she held in her hand. Diana’s eyes darkened, “Juliana, you don’t understand how badly your asking to stay hurts us.” She snapped the compact closed.
“Oh, Mom.” Julie averted her mother’s eyes to watch passersby. Downtown Chicago was one of the best places in the world to people watch. And Julie loved to people watch—especially when it helped her avoid her mother’s steely gaze. “I’m not asking to stay; I’m asking to come back, so I can keep up with school work here. My senior year is important.”
“Juliana, please hear me out,” Diana snapped. Julie closed her mouth, holding what she had to say. “Look, you’ve already applied for college, and you’ve already been accepted. Yes, you want a scholarship, because you want to swim—”
“It’s more than a—”
“Allow me to finish.” Her tone was sharp, almost hostile. “You don’t need a scholarship. You can still swim. And, we can afford any tuition, whichever school you select.” Diana took a deep breath. “Your father and I did discuss your staying with Marie-Do’s family. But, Julie, I need you. I need you there with me. I need your help, dealing with—” Diana locked her fingers together, turning her eyes from Julie to stare at the table. “However, you do not understand all the circumstances surrounding why we must move.”
Julie rubbed her hands across the tablecloth. “Then explain it to me. I deserve to know,” Julie fought to keep her voice from quivering. “I mean, this does rather drastically affect my life.”
“Juliana, if I felt like I could explain it all to you, then I would. But,” Diana shrugged, “I can’t. Not yet.”
Julie folded her arms. “Then why are we even talking? It’s obvious that my feelings mean very little to you.” Julie opened her menu. “I’m ready to order.” Julie looked up, her face obscured by the menu except for her raging eyes. “And call me Julie.”
Julie watched as Diana’s eyes locked on her like stampeding bulls. “Alright, you win,” her voice cracked, not at all filled with the heat in her eyes. “He’s dying, Julie. Your father is dying.”
“What?” Julie said, not because she hadn’t heard as much as she hadn’t allowed herself to comprehend what had been spoken. “What?”
“Juliana, I didn’t want to tell you like this, not like this, but you’ve forced my hand.” Diana sobbed into her napkin, her face hidden. “We need you to go.”
“You said it wasn’t serious, that he was taking time off to relax, that the cancer was in remission”—Julie fought a sob—“That’s what you said.”
Diana leveled her eyes on Julie. They glistened with tears. “It’s terminal, Julie.”
Terminal. The word sounded so clinical. “I, I’m so sorry.” Julie stammered. “Why, why are we going? Why move from one of the best cancer clinics in the world?”
Diana reached across the table and held Julie’s hand. “He wants to die in his childhood home, Julie.”
Julie moved her mouth but no words came. She felt a great pit open in her chest as if gnomes were digging through the bone to extract her soul from her body. She couldn’t even cry. “I’m gonna be sick,” she squeaked and ran from the table.
Diana watched Julie tear away then she waved for the waiter.
* * * *
Sitting at her vanity, Julie looked into the mirror and frowned. She wiped her eyes dry. Marie-Do was going to arrive in just a few minutes and her eyes were bloodshot from crying. She took a deep breath to calm herself and decided to pack.
Julie stood and crossed the room to her large walk-in closet. She flipped the light on and scanned the racks and shelves. All the clothes she had bought earlier in the day were already packed, and she had to decide what else was essential. Everything she didn’t bring with her in the car was going to arrive later with movers or be stored.
Julie backed away from the closet and glanced around her room. The room was a cheery, delicate pale yellow that she had selected with her mother and Marie-Do two years before. She loved the color. When the sun first rose over Lake Michigan in the morning and poured into her room, the walls almost matched the sunlight and she felt wrapped in warmth and beauty.
The uncluttered room Julie had decorated with an array of items she treasured. On the bed she had made that morning laid a stuffed monkey, a gift from her first love who had moved away in eighth grade. The walls held properly arranged photos of her family and Marie-Do, and a few pieces of original art. (Her mother said it was never too soon to start collecting or defining your taste.) The oil and acrylic landscapes captured the cityscape with amazing realism. Julie would fall asleep, looking at the paintings and listening to the city outside feeling connected to the world around her. These things would stay, she decided, and await her return.
Julie selected some jeans, shoes, corduroys, and a couple of dresses and skirts. Reaching to the back of her closet, Julie removed a winter coat. She shivered just imagining how much more brutal the winter in the UP was going to be. She had gone “camping” with Marie-Do and her parents in the UP several summers earlier. Camping, for Marie-Do’s family, consisted of a cabin with a fire pit and hot tub on a lake. Julie recalled how cold the water in the lake had been even in summer and how cool the air was. Julie made several trips to her suitcase and folded the items into place.
A knock at the door startled Julie. She turned to face the door and said, “Come in.”
Marie-Do burst into the room, filling it with warmth and energy. She had her school bag stretched over her shoulders. “Ça-va?”
Julie nodded to the French greeting, “Ça-va bien. And how are you?”
Marie-Do flopped onto the floor across from Julie, their feet almost touching. “Fine. I brought you a gift,” she said. She unzipped her bag and pulled out a gift bag. She set it on the floor. Glancing at Julie, Marie-Do’s smile melted into concern. “You’ve been crying?”
Damn. Julie faked a weak smile. “It’s just the move and all.”
“Your parents didn’t even consider your staying.”
Julie shook her head. “His cancer isn’t in remission.”
Marie-Do blinked at her friend for a moment, before the weight of the words registered.
Pushing the gift bag aside, she hugged her friend. “Oh, Julie.”
Julie sobbed on her shoulder. “I didn’t know he was dying. I feel so selfish.”
“Julie, you didn’t know. You didn’t know.”
Marie-Do hugged her friend, letting her cry, and wishing she could do something to ease the pain.
* * * *
Diana shuffled away from Julie’s door, a placid look on her face. Julie’s sobs and the light, comforting sounds of Marie-Do pleased her. She crossed down the hall to the master bedroom where Vance, Julie’s father, lay on the bed. Diana traipsed past the four poster bed to the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Lake Michigan. At night, the lake was a murky black void, seemingly not just the end of Chicago, but the end of the world.
She checked her reflection in the mirror, noting the fine spray of lines around her eyes. She touched them gently with her finger tips and snorted.
She slid onto the bed next to Vance, rocking him slightly. “How is she?” He asked without opening his eyes.
“She’s very distraught,” Diana said in an even tone.
“You pulled out the big guns?”
Diana rolled onto her side and playfully smacked Vance’s belly. Vance opened his eyes as he let out air in a huff. “Sure did. I told her you were dying.”
Vance rolled over and kissed Diana gently on the lips. He let his eyes linger on hers. “Won’t she be in for a surprise?” He said and they both laughed.
* * * *
A few minutes had passed since Julie’s last sobs and Marie-Do decided she would do her best to cheer up her friend. She retracted her arm and stood. “Do you need help packing?”
Julie stood and wiped her eyes. “Sure.” Julie walked into her closet and called over her shoulder. “What’re we doing tonight?”
“Hitting the town of course.” Marie-Do glanced to the closet. “Unless you don’t feel like it. I understand.”
“No. This is my last night. We have to go out.”
“What time do you leave in the morning?”
“First thing. It takes about nine hours.”
“Oh, God,” Marie-Do heaved. Her face brightened. “Still, I could see you off.”
“No. It’s gonna be hard enough without you there.” Julie folded another shirt into her suitcase, and it threatened to overflow. “Hey, what’d you get me?”
Marie-Do nodded and pressed the pleats on her skirt down with the palms of her hands. “It’s not much of a surprise, since you already saw it.”
Julie furrowed her brow, not sure what to think until she opened the bag. “The book!”
“Thought you’d find it funny.”
“I do. I do.” Julie studied the worn, leather cover and the gold embossed lettering. “Did you read any of this?”
Marie-Do shrugged. “Just a bit. It’s mostly an encyclopedia, but it has spells and things too. It’s a laugh riot.”
Julie opened the book to a random page and pronounced, “Black Mass. A blasphemous mockery of the Catholic Mass held by Satanists that involves deviant sexual acts.” Julie leveled her eyes with Marie-Do.
“See? Hilarious,” Marie-Do quipped.
Julie slid the book into the suitcase under some clothes to protect it. “Thank you,” she said.
Pressing on the suitcase lid, Julie began to pull the zipper around. She leaned forward to place her weight on the suitcase and smashed the lid closed. After a final tug on the zipper, she let out a tired breath. “Done.”
“Then are you ready to go out?”
“Looking like this?” Julie pulled her long, curly hair back in her hands. “I need to clean up.”
Marie-Do rolled her eyes. “Sure. Maybe you’ll get a boyfriend tonight.”
“Oh, that hurt,” Julie called, already at her vanity and applying lipstick. She saw Marie-Do smile in the mirror. She placed a fresh coat of powder on her face and ran her hand through her hair. The natural curl came to life, and her hair fell around her shoulders. She turned to her friend, “What about you?”
“My sexy accent alone is enough to win the hearts of all the young men.” She crossed her legs on the edge of the bed. “And boys don’t know that it’s fake.”
“Most boys don’t know a lot of things.”
Marie-Do arched her eyebrow. “Julie, you have to flirt a little to get their attention.”
“It’s not my forte.”
“That’s because the only boyfriend you ever had was—what’s his name?—that moved away.” Marie-Do glanced to the stuffed monkey on the bed.
“Tyler,” Julie answered. Julie cocked her head. “I’m just not as experienced as you.”
“That’s because when it comes to boys your parents are a little”—Marie-Do thought domineering but said—“overprotective.” Marie-Do furrowed her brow. “You make me sound like a hussy.”
“No! Not at all.” Julie corrected. “You’re just not scared of boys.” Julie gave a helpless sigh. “I get all gooey and stupid when I like one.”
Marie-Do’s face took on a speculative expression. “I hope teeth aren’t important to you. I mean, if you don’t meet someone tonight that is.” Marie-Do folded up on the bed laughing.
Julie glared at her. “That’s not funny, Marie-Do. It’s really not.”
The Devil You Know Amazon Link
About Adrian Lilly
Adrian Lilly is the author of the novels The Devil You Know and Red Haze. He is a fan of Gothic suspense movies and novels, which greatly influence his writing. Adrian's writing focuses on strong character development and the nuances of fear that build toward horror. The mansion in his first novel was inspired by houses in the Victorian neighborhood where he lives.
Adrian writes novels, short stories and poetry and has spent many years as a copywriter in the advertising industry. In addition, Adrian has directed two short films and co-directed a feature-length sci-fi comedy.
Labels: guest post