The Beauty Queen Copyright ÂŠ 2010 by Terry Wright All rights reserved. No part of this story (eBook) may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or book reviews. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidences are either a product of the authorâ€™s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events, or locals is entirely coincidental. Published by TWB Press Edited by Bobette Ames For more information visit www.terrywrightbooks.com
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The Beauty Queen
by Terry Wright EXCERPT Twin spotlights swept the night sky above Deckers Town Theater on Main Stage Road. The final round of the beauty queen pageant was underway. On stage stood ten girls in the six‐to‐eight‐year‐old category. One would be chosen to wear the Little Miss Central Texas crown. Mrs. Sandy Brandish stood behind the red curtains and watched the contestants pose in their evening gowns. Mothers had primped their girls to perfection: lipstick, mascara and rouge, hairstyles upswept, and high‐ heel shoes. The fragrance of expensive perfumes caressed Sandy’s nostrils, and she could feel the heat of the stage lamps on her face. As the finalists’ names were announced and the girls strutted the runway, thunderous applause excited every nerve in Sandy’s body.
She’d finally come home. Five years had passed since she’d attended one of these gala affairs. Five years since... “A fine group of girls we have this year,” said Mr. Shepler, the pageant’s aging announcer. He’d stepped back from the podium to speak with her. “It’s good to see you back.” “I’m a little nervous.” Shepler sighed. “I remember when you were standing up there.” Cameras flashed. “A lot has happened since then.” “It must’ve been horrible,” he said. “I can’t imagine losing a daughter like that. She was destined for stardom.” “As I was...once.” “Did the police ever find her killer?” “No.” She bit her lip. “I hear Victor took it pretty hard.” “Yes.” Her husband had put on a good show for the cops and the media. Another round of applause filled the theater. She scanned the girls, their bright smiles and nervous twitching. Some beauty queen contestants were better poised than others, the result of constant coaching from their mothers, mothers insistent on winning, mothers who lived vicariously through their daughters. Mothers like
Sandy. “Where is Victor tonight?” Shepler asked. “He doesn’t know I’m here.” Sandy pushed back a lock of flowing black hair. “Beauty pageants have been my life. My mother entered me. Her mother entered her. Pageantry molds girls into fine, upstanding young women. Victor doesn’t understand that I have to put Renee’s death behind me and move forward.” “He’ll come around, in time.” The last girl rejoined the line. As she turned around to face the audience, the photographers snapped some final shots of her. In the flashbulbs’ glare, Sandy could see the girl clearly. Blond hair. Blue eyes. Same size. Same stature...a spitting image of...Renee! Blood rushed to Sandy’s head in a dizzying swirl. Memories spilled out like red wine on a white tablecloth, the stain of her past flooding back to reality. Renee, the beauty queen, once a dead child cradled in her arms, was now alive on stage in all her radiant splendor. Shepler stepped up to the podium microphone. “There you are, ladies and gentlemen, this year’s Little Miss Central Texas finalists. Please wish them well by giving them a big hand.” The audience applauded. Sandy’s eyes met the blond girl’s eyes, and they locked on each other, staring as if they were the only ones in the theater. Weak knees threatened to send Sandy to the floor. “My baby!”
As she came to that sudden realization, a horrid stench ballooned in the air, the smell of rotting road kill. Wrinkling her nose, she noticed an old man standing next to her. She hadn’t heard his approach, and his unexpected appearance gave her a fright. She stepped back, aghast. Tipping his dirty cowboy hat to her, a flurry of dust swirled from the old man’s long brown coat. His face looked sickly pale, cheeks sunken and weathered as old rawhide. Scraggly gray hair hung down to his shoulders. The stinking bum looked way out of place at this formal event. Sandy gagged on his stench. “Go away, mister!” “I didn’t mean to startle you, ma’am,” the man said in a sandpaper‐ rough voice. “My name is Justin Graves, but you can call me Justice.” He extended a bony hand to her. She cringed at the thought of touching him. How dare he walk in here and stink up this beautiful pageant. He was beneath her high‐society dignity and didn’t even deserve a word from her. She refocused her attention on the child who resembled her dead daughter. “Pretty girl, isn’t she?” Justin said. “Her name is Suzie May.” How could this ugly vagrant know anything about Renee’s look‐ alike? Sandy crossed her arms, irritated that this unsightly creature would even look at a child so beautiful. “She’s an orphan,” he said. Sandy blinked. He must’ve been family, a long lost uncle twice removed. Make that ten times removed.
“She needs a nice home.” Putting her social status aside, she braved a word with the old bum. “Why are you telling me this?” “Just thought you might be able to help her out.” Sandy stuck her high‐society nose in the air. “I suggest you leave before I call the authorities.” “I’m a homicide detective for the Texas Rangers.” Justin pointed out the rusted circle‐star badge pinned to his coat lapel. “Is that enough authority for you?” She’d had her share of pushy homicide detectives...since Renee... “That’s why you won’t call anyone,” Justin said, as if he had read her mind. Affording him a glance, she feared she’d vomit from the looks and smell of him. “What do you want?” “Justice for Renee.” “Don’t we all? An intruder killed her.” “That’s not what she told me.” Sandy turned her head away from him with as much snobbery as she could muster. “She died five years ago.” “Renee told me what happened on that Christmas night.” “She didn’t tell you anything.” “I talk to dead people,” Justin said. “Do I look stupid?” “Do I look alive?” Justin opened the flap of his coat. “See for
yourself.” She braved a glance and saw rotted flesh hanging from bleached‐ white rib bones. Slimy maggots writhed in the goo. The sight drove her eyes shut like a slap to the face. “That’s disgusting.” “You believe me now?” “I don’t know what to believe.” “The house of the dead is a mighty big place,” Justin said. “Those who check in, never check out. Except me.” “What are you getting at?” She wished the old man would just go away. From his dusty pocket, he removed a silver barrette studded with red jewels. He set it in the palm of his right hand and offered it to her. “Renee wants you to have this.” Sandy couldn’t breathe. Her daughter had worn that barrette on the night she died. It was the only item of jewelry she was buried with. Sandy remembered clasping it to a lock of Renee’s hair just before the coffin lid was closed and sealed. Now here it was again, in the hand of this filthy and definitely dead old man. She snatched the precious barrette from his palm. “I believe you now.” ...
Coming Soon from TWB Press
About the Author, Terry Wright There’s nothing mundane in the writing world of Terry Wright. He thrives on adrenaline. Tension, conflict and suspense propel his readers through the pages as if they were on fire. Published in Science Fiction and Supernatural, his mastery of the action thriller has won him International acclaim as an accomplished screenplay writer. A longtime member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, he runs their annual Colorado Gold Writing Contest. Terry lives near Denver with his wife, Bobette, and a Yorkie named Ginger, who is really the boss of the family. Learn more about Terryʹs books, short stories, and screenplays at terrywrightbooks.com.
Enjoy reading Terry’s other short stories and novels: The 13th Power (Gardenia Press, 2001) Trade paperback novel from TWB Press, Amazon Science Fiction Thriller Scientists are building bigger and faster particle accelerators to smash atom into smaller pieces. They are looking for the Higgs boson, The God Particle. What if they find it? The Gates of Hell ( New Line Press, 2010) Justin Graves Series, Book 1 eBook and Kindle short story Supernatural Thriller When Justin Graves and his daughter are murdered, he makes deal with the devil to save her soul: one hundred bad guys for her pardon from hell. Night Stalker (New Line Press, 2010) Justin Graves Series, Book 2 eBook and Kindle short story Supernatural Thriller Justin Graves goes after a night stalker who killed a young bride on her wedding night and got away with the murder.
~11~ Black Widow (New Line Press,2010) Justin Graves Series, Book 3 eBook and Kindle short story Justin Graves seeks out a beautiful woman who kills her lovers. She’s every man’s dream date, but don’t disappoint her...or else! Z‐motors, The Job from Hell (New Line Press, 2010) eBook and Kindle short story Horror In this satire on zombies in the workplace, the dark side of the auto repair business is exposed, and a mechanic’s quest to overcome unemployment leads his family down a disastrous path. The Duplication Factor (Essential10 Publishers, 2010) eBook novel and Kindle Science Fiction Thriller Speculation has it, in scientific circles and the press, that in some secret lab somewhere, a human has already been cloned. The truth is there were two clones, a corporate tycoon and a mass murderer. The consequences were horrific.