Read In The Bleak Midwinter: A Special Agent Constance Mandalay Novel Online
Authors: M. R. Sellars
Tags: #suspense, #murder, #mystery, #police procedural, #holidays, #christmas, #supernatural, #investigation, #fbi agent, #paranormal thriller
A SPECIAL AGENT CONSTANCE MANDALAY NOVEL
This book is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the
author’s imagination, have been used fictitiously, or are used with
permission. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons,
living or dead, is entirely coincidental, unless otherwise
IN THE BLEAK
A Special Agent Constance
An E.M.A. Mysteries Book
E.M.A. Mysteries is an imprint of
WillowTree Press First Electronic
Edition / November 2011
All Rights Reserved
Copyright © 2011 by M. R.
This ebook is licensed for your
personal enjoyment only. It may not be, sold, given away,
reproduced or transmitted, in whole or in part, by any means,
mechanical or electronic, without permission.
For information, contact
E.M.A. Mysteries on the World Wide Web:
EPUB ISBN 13:
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Cover Design Copyright © 2011 – On The
Author Photo Copyright © 1966 – Unknown
/ Family Photo Album
E.M.A. Mysteries Electronic Edition
Published by WillowTree Press at
No matter what I do, I will forget to mention
someone. That’s just how it is. I have a template-like set of
acknowledgements that I use for the majority of my novels, and
without fail, I forget to add someone to it each and every time.
Therefore, I am starting this list with an apology. If I owe you a
debt of gratitude for helping me with information or the like where
this novel is concerned, or even something else entirely, and I
have forgotten to mention you here, my bad. I’ll try to do better
In the interim, off the top of my head (and
from the bottom of my heart):
Anastasia “Loots” Luettecke
being willing to recount your childhood experiences from Catholic
grammar school and for not only providing information, but
verifying my other research in that area.
for lending me your insights about your work with the
Children’s Advocacy Centers to train child abuse investigators. The
knowledge was invaluable.
—For letting me borrow your
—It is utterly amazing how
much you can learn from an eleven-year-old if you just pay
—You keep me sane, whether you
realize it or not.
My friends in law enforcement
State, and Federal)—You know who you are.
And in no particular order, special thanks go
out for—Pancakes, turkey bacon, green tea,
by Star ™, collard greens, bacon vodka,
, diphenhydramine hydrochloride, omega-3 fatty acids,
index cards, dry erase markers, pushpins, aspirin, and flight
attendants who actually have a sense of humor.
And finally, surviving the 70’s with enough
emotional scarring to turn me into a writer…
“You are about to show me shadows of the
things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before
us. Is that so, Spirit?”
A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens, 1843
3:26 PM – December 22, 1975
US Highway 136
Midway between Mais and Hulis Townships
Frances Callahan’s ten-year-old
brain felt like it was going to explode at any moment. She knew it
couldn’t really, but it still felt like it. But even if it could,
she imagined the
probably wouldn’t happen until
sometime after she
Of course, the way she felt
right now, that might well be coming soon enough.
Her stomach was aching, as if something was
trapped inside her and trying to claw its way out. Her head
pounded, and her mouth tasted like sour milk, just as it had for
most of the afternoon. It hadn’t helped either that Sister Regina
had made her eat lunch, whether she had the appetite for it or not.
But that was Sister Regina for you. She wouldn’t believe you were
sick unless you threw up right in front of her, and sometimes not
“Do as you’re told and keep your mouth shut,
or else,” was what she would always say.
part was never pleasant
where any of the nuns at Immaculate Conception were concerned, but
when Sister Regina said it, you definitely listened. Sister Conran
was even worse than her, but not by much.
Knowing this, Merrie only dared to object
once, which as it turned out was one time too many given Sister
Regina’s reaction. After that, she did exactly as she was told,
without complaint, even though every bite of her lunch had made her
want to puke.
“It would be your fault…”
The painful words continued tumbling around
inside her head, stopping mid somersault to jeer at her whenever
she so much as blinked. For that very reason she tried not to. She
simply stared straight ahead, watching quietly through the
windshield of the car, until finally and without fail, the dry air
would force her eyelids to flutter, no matter how hard she tried to
“It would be your fault…”
Normally she loved words. Reading was her
best and favorite subject. In fact, she had even won the fifth
grade spelling bee last month, beating out that stuck-up Johnny
Seitz on the word COMMEMORATE; and it was one from the
But these words were different. These words
she hated. She hated them very much, as well as the words that came
along with them. She hated those even more. But just as she
couldn’t stop herself from blinking, no matter how hard she tried
to forget the painful words, they just wouldn’t go away.
Merrie listened to the hum of the tires
against the pavement as it blended with the low whoosh of the air
from the heater vents in front of her. She concentrated on the
drone, allowing it to pour into her ears in hopes that it would
fill her head and force the hurtful words out.
Much to her disappointment, it didn’t, but
before long its soothing lull caused her to give in to the dry air.
She closed her eyes, then breathed deep while trying to think of
something happy. For most anyone else, that would be easy. After
all, it would be Christmas in just a couple of days. However, that
didn’t cheer her up at all. In fact, it just made the bad feelings
worse and the pain in the pit of her stomach even more
Behind her, strapped into the back seat,
Merrie’s younger sister Becca began singing
Santa Claus Is
Coming To Town.
Well, she was really only singing part of it.
Her version was just repeating one or two lines of the chorus and
then throwing in extra words whenever she felt like it. However,
since she was barely five, she was doing okay and she was even
almost staying on key. Unfortunately, the cheerful noise wasn’t
helping Merrie’s mood any more than her own constant thoughts of
the coming holiday.
She heard her name and then felt a light
brush against her arm. The unexpected sensation was like an
electric shock and it made her jump. In that brief moment of fear,
she shrank away from the touch, pressing herself into the cold,
vinyl upholstery of the inner car door.
“I’m sorry, honey.” Her mother’s concerned
voice drifted into her ears. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“That’s okay,” Merrie replied.
“Why so jumpy?”
Merrie shrugged inside her coat. “I
“You’ve been awfully quiet since we left the
school. Are you feeling all right?”
Merrie allowed herself to slump back down
into the seat as she mumbled, “I’m okay.”
“Are you sure?”
“I just kinda have a headache. That’s
Elizabeth Callahan picked her glove from her
fingers with her teeth, while leaving the other hand on the
steering wheel in order to keep the vehicle aimed along the
two-lane stretch of blacktop.
Spitting the glove onto the bench seat
between them she said, “Lean over this way for a second.”
Once Merrie complied, she reached over and
pressed the back of her bared hand against her daughter’s
“Are you feeling sick, sweetheart?”
“Maybe a little,” Merrie replied. “I just… I
just have a headache.”
“Well… You don’t feel like you have a fever,”
her mother announced. “But you do look a little flushed. Is it just
a headache? There’s a flu going around.”