The Gates of Hell Copyright ÂŠ 2010 by Terry Wright
All rights reserved. No part of this book 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 permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or book reviews. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authorâ€™s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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The Gates of Hell By Terry Wright
Justin Graves reeled from the stench of medicinal air inside Deckers Memorial Hospital. Past midnight, he stood at the door to her room and heard the rhythmic thump and hiss of the machines that kept her alive. Her chest was bandaged. Tubes and wires ran from her body to the machines. The sight of Christy lying there like that threatened to rip his bullet-riddled heart from his ribcage. Stepping into the room felt like stepping off a tall cliff. Dirt drizzled from his long coat but disappeared before reaching the floor. Standing at her bedside, he leaned over and examined her pallid face and black hair cropped short and mussed. Her lips were parched and gray. She didn’t even look like his sixteen-year-old daughter. If tears could flow from hollow eye sockets, he’d be bawling right now. Removing his dusty cowboy hat, he sat in a chair close to her. “Christy, I’m sorry.” He touched her doughy hand and choked on guilt. “If only there was another way to save you.” But it was too late now. The mistakes had all been made. He looked down at the rusted circle star badge pinned to his dusty coat. His job had kept him on the move, chasing bad guys for the Texas Rangers. He didn’t have time to stay home and raise a child. So this was the price she had to pay for him being a lousy father.
She never knew her mother. Eleanor died during the delivery. Nanny Jean had taken care of Christy until a truck driver out of Irvine drove away with the only mother she’d ever known. After that, Aunt Clara took her in. Justin sent her to boarding schools and summer camps, and he made it home for holidays and birthdays, most of them. He’d tried to give her a normal family life, but sitting in this hard chair, the bitter truth churned in his abdomen like maggots on rotting meat. Even as a part-time father, he’d failed miserably. But their life wasn’t all bad. He remembered her laughter, her songbird voice, and the way candlelight sparkled in her hair. That day, she wore a blue flower-print dress, bobby socks, and shiny black shoes with big buckles. “I love you, Daddy.” She blew out five candles on her birthday cake. Justin kissed her glowing cheek and handed her a present wrapped with a red bow. “This is for my best girl.” “Oh, Daddy.” She ripped off the wrapping. “Barbie!” She hugged the doll close to her heart. “Was my mommy this beautiful?” “Yes.” Justin’s bones creaked as he leaned back in the hospital room chair. Carrousel music drifted in his skull. Deckers County Fair. He could still smell the stockyards and cotton candy. Christy wore cowboy boots, blue jeans and a flannel shirt. “I want to ride a pony. Please, Dad.” The sign on the corral gate read: You must be 9 years old to ride. $2. Fishing two bucks from his wallet, he would’ve paid ten if it would’ve made her happy. “Be careful.”
One day he came home from work and found Aunt Clara in a tizzy. “I told her to clean her room.” Clara jammed her hands on her hips. “She snuck out her window instead.” “That’s not like her,” Justin said in his daughter’s defense, but she just stood in the dining room with a spiteful scowl on her brow. “It’s those boys she’s mixin’ with.” Aunt Clara stormed out. Justin figured it was time for some tough love. “Where did you go, young lady?” Christy glared at him. “None of your business.” Her face was all painted up with lipstick and rouge. He pointed to the bathroom. “Get in there and wash that junk off your face.” “My mother would’ve let me wear makeup.” “Don’t argue with me.” “I’m thirteen, Dad. Get used to it.” “That’s no excuse to go around looking like a tramp.” “I hate you.” She ran out. So much for tough love, his daughter was slipping away and he felt helpless to stop her. Grounding her would make her rebel even worse... He sat upright in the hospital chair, a noise down the hall having interrupted his thoughts. A nurse came in, walked by him without so much as a nod, checked a monitor, and left. He felt invisible—because he was. He remembered the last time he’d seen Christy—before this happened. Wearing a plaid skirt, white blouse and saddle shoes, she threw her books down on the breakfast table. “I’m not going to school.” She stomped out of the kitchen. Justin tried to be calm but firm. “Get back in here, young lady.”
“You’re not my boss.” “No, I’m not.” He got up and moved to intercept her in the living room. “I’m your father.” “I wouldn’t be braggin’ about that, Dad.” She plopped on the couch. He sat next to her. “What’s the problem?” “What do you care? Go chase some bad guys.” “It’s my job. You’ll understand one day.” “You’re never home. That’s all I understand.” “You have to go to school, Christy.” “I can’t wait ‘til I’m old enough to get out of this stupid house.” Then the stealing began. His wallet was emptied sometime during the night. “I didn’t take your money, Dad. You must’ve lost it.” He noticed a rose tattoo over her left breast, and her ears were pierced from top to bottom. “What have you done to yourself?” She stuck out her tongue, revealing a silver stud. If he had a pair of pliers, that thing would be history. “What would your mother think if she saw you now?” “She’s dead. I killed her. Remember?” “It wasn’t your fault.” “She died giving birth to me, how can it not be my fault?” “Christy...” Billy appeared in the doorway. Her boyfriend. Scraggly hair flourished on his chin and he wore a silver ring through his right eyebrow. His neck was tattooed in barbed wire. “Crystal,
let’s go.” “Crystal? Where did that come from?” “It’s my new name, Dad.” Billy strutted across the living room like a rooster in a barnyard. “You don’t approve?” He jutted out his hairy chin like he was daring Justin to do something about Christy’s name. Justin seethed. Billy Denton, punk of all punks with a rap sheet as long as his arm. “Get out of my house.” “Let’s go, Billy.” Christy took his hand in hers. Justin couldn’t believe this travesty was being perpetrated in his own home. “You’re not going anywhere with him.” “He loves me, Dad.” She kissed Billy on the cheek. “And I love him too.” Billy grinned wickedly. Hot adrenaline surged through Justin. “You’re only sixteen, Christy.” “You can’t tell me who to love.” She left with Billy. Tears stung Justin’s eyes. That was the last time he saw her... Until one night at headquarters, Justin was on duty with his boss, Captain Holland, a chubby, round-faced detective who wore a ten-gallon Stetson, turquoise bolo tie, and alligator boots. “There’s been a shooting on Deckers Boulevard,” Holland said, handing Justin the call sheet. “Better get down there right away.” Justin threw on his long brown coat, cowboy hat and grabbed his Winchester rifle from the gun rack. “What’s the M.O.?”
“A drive by,” Holland said. “Somebody fingered Billy Denton and his gang. He shot a kid..”
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About the Author: Thereâ€™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. Visit Terryâ€™s website at TerryWrightBooks.com.
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