By Terry Lloyd Vinson
Suspense/Thriller, 446 pages
Cover art by Richard Stroud
Man’s will to survive the most dismal of odds is well-documented throughout history. Many of the more miraculous entries into the legendary canon of such tales involve individuals of such stout inner fortitude—perhaps shaped in personal faith or simply a psyche forged of pure iron—that the chances of escaping the reaper’s sharp-edged scythe improve by default.
Welcome then, into the desolate, stony confines of The Purgatory Inn, where the limits of human endurance are put to the ultimate test in the form of two involuntary guests, each forced to overcome the most formidable foe of all…the specters of their respective pasts.
“A fellow inmate, I presume?”
“Safe bet. You don’t…look familiar. That is, the face doesn’t ring a bell.”
“Ditto. Should it?”
“I guess not. The boss goes through hired hands like busboys at the Corner Bistro.”
“By the boss you mean…Hanley?”
“Who else? You here for movie-time?”
“Appears so. ‘Bout damn time the old fucker explains himself, ugh, pardon the fractured French.”
“No strain. I’m familiar with the word.”
“Yeah, well, ugh, I guess you’re the her?”
“Yep, and you be the his. Bizarre little resort they have here, right?”
“That it is…but then, when a fuc…ugh, a guy like Hanley has unlimited funds, the sky’s the limit.”
“Or the cave, at least in this case.”
The theater room’s surprisingly roomy interior was fittingly dim, though illuminated just enough for the well-adjusted eye to properly survey its content. A new smell, like that of a recently purchased auto, permeated the cool air within. With a dozen high-back recliners to choose from, all broken down into four rows of three, LeAnn had gone front row to the extreme right, within touching distance of the nearby wall. Upon reaching a brief respite in their initial verbal volley, Jorgenson side-stepped between the third and fourth rows and anchored down in the middle chair.
“Wonder if we’re it?” he finally blurted, clearly overdoing it and coming off woefully insincere in the process. Going by reputation, he could probably care less if a troupe of boy scouts waltzed in to fill the remaining ten spots, much less the reason behind the fat chick’s presence.
“Hard to say. The boss is nothing if not unpredictable,” she answered flatly, refocused on the dark, flowing curtain at the front of the room. A curtain that, hanging within the surrounding gloom, could’ve been either dark brown or velvet maroon.
Upon first glance, LeAnn might’ve naturally assumed the stranger unkempt and thuggish in appearance, though as moments passed and he’d taken his seat, several shades of murkiness had faded to offer a better visual. Facing front to better cloak her interest, she might even have decided a rugged handsomeness existed, even with the addition of the horrendously baggy sweats. She tugged at her own collar, a red outline already present at her neckline from the constant friction. Wincing from the persistent discomfort, one could safely assume she pondered if their intended wardrobes had been accidentally switched upon arrival.
“Some pad, huh?” she spat, possibly for no other reason than to pierce the maddening silence.
“Some wild shit all right...” he replied, pausing to clear his throat, “…like canned Spam shoved in a rabbit hole. Makes me wonder where we are, I mean, still U.S. soil or maybe some third world shithole a thousand miles from nowhere. Knowing Hanley, I kinda tilt toward the latter.”
“You see the tunnel physician, that is, you get your physical and pre-brief yet?”
Scratching a build-up of stubble at the tip of his chin, Jorgenson snorted.
“Oh yeah, and how about that cast of characters? Beam me the fuck up, Scotty. Oh, you have the displeasure of jawing with Foghorn Leghorn?”
LeAnn giggled despite herself, pinching a knot in her outer right thigh in order to refrain from guffawing aloud, an action she possibly feared might trigger a laughing jag she might not be able to control if it got its head.
“A real charmer, that one. Hologram or not, little psycho gave me the willies.”
“Yeah, well…I’d take him over ol’ doc Mengele any day.”