Author’s notes: I was fortunate enough to spend more than thirty years teaching in rural schools. Many people are drawn to the peace, quiet and anonymity afforded by rural areas.
In this fictional suspense thriller, the reader is invited to explore the mind of a murderer as he tries to justify blackmailing and terrorizing an accused child molester, an alcoholic gambler and a homosexual who teach in an isolated, religious, Northern community.
In a small, rural, northern village, the detective assigned to investigate a young teacher’s death is frustrated by a lack of evidence and struggles to identify the murderer.
For a while, Robert believes he has gotten away with the crime, but his life begins to spiral out of control when his coveted head-teacher position is challenged by three other teachers. He is desperate to keep the job that he sees as his symbol of success in this fundamentalist community. By delving into his rivals’ pasts, he discovers secrets that if revealed might end their careers. Terrified that they will be exposed, each teacher isolates themselves in misery and despair.
Riverside Elementary School becomes the unlikely venue for a twisted plot of murder, blackmail, terror and revenge.
• Lost in thought, he kicked at a discarded coat in front of the entrance to Riverside Elementary. A low guttural moan disturbed the early morning stillness. Malcolm jolted into awareness. As he bent down, he gingerly reached into the tattered garment, a sickening odour of bloody meat wafted from the clothing. His hand touched a warm, wet, slimy mess. Reeling as his senses were dealt another blow, he uncovered the inert body.
• One by one, the older students read the messages they had composed. Tears flowed as Doug, who had made great progress in her class, haltingly recited Ms. Lloyd’s favourite poem. The mood had gradually lightened by the time the children filed out into the sunshine, each carrying a green or silver balloon. Ms. Myers counted quietly to three, and then the balloons lifted skyward, drifting in the slight autumn breeze.
• Meanwhile, Betsy lay moaning on the bathroom floor. Robert delivered one more kick and then left the tiny space. As the door slammed, she took her arms down, no longer needing to shield her head. She rolled over and heaved herself up over the rim of the toilet. Hanging onto the cold, white porcelain, she vomited the remains of her supper. Staggering to her feet, she inspected the latest damage. Ugly welts were forming on her stomach, and pain radiated from her wrist. Grabbing a facecloth, she held it under the cold water and then bound the material around the injured joint.
• The insistent screech of the whistling kettle drew her back to the porch and inside. She put a tea bag in her cup and poured the steaming water over it. Reaching into the fridge for the milk, she froze in horror. There in the center of the top shelf was a squirrel carcass. Blood was dripping everywhere, and its entrails tumbled out of its body cavity. Her stomach roiled as the stench of still warm blood rose from the remains.