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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Killing Pace

A Mystery

Douglas Schofield

Minotaur Books



MARCH 2015

Lisa awoke with a ripple of anticipation.

She’d been waiting for this day ever since Roland had finally agreed to let her join him on his bimonthly supply run into town.

She’d been increasing the pressure for the last two weeks, and he’d finally relented.

“Okaaay! Okay! But we’ll have to do it on a Sunday morning.”

“Why Sunday?”

He’d explained that most of Everglades City’s townsfolk would either be at home, or in church, or out fishing. “Not so many people around to upset you.”

Ever since early February, when Lisa had wandered away from their homestead in the Big Cypress backcountry—ever since he’d finally found her, sick and bleeding on a remote stretch of back road, with no memory of where she was, or who she was—Roland Lewis had been completely obsessed about never letting her out of his sight. And obsessed, as well, about keeping the outside world where it belonged:


No visitors, no TV, no internet, no newspapers—nothing could be allowed into their lives that might unsettle Lisa in her delicate state. And, just to keep her safe, and to protect her from any lapses, he had locked her in a secure room whenever he went to town. He called it their “safe room.” It had a cot, and a chair, a rusting pole lamp, a pee bucket … and no windows.

Yeah, it was a bit like a cell, but for a good purpose.

After this last incident—after her injuries had started to heal and she’d calmed down enough to listen—Roland had explained the purpose of the room. They had designed it together, he said, after an earlier episode when she’d wandered away in a disoriented state. A “foog state,” he’d called it. He claimed he’d looked up the word, but she didn’t know where because the only book in the cabin was a workshop manual for his pickup. After a while, it came to her that he must have meant “fugue state.” She’d forgotten her name and everything she’d ever done, but for some reason she’d retained her vocabulary, and it seemed to be better than his.

That earlier time when she’d wandered off, he said, he’d found her sloshing around in an alligator-infested strand two miles from their compound. “After ya recovered, you were really scared it would happen again. That safe room was your idea.”

Somehow Lisa couldn’t imagine herself asking to be locked up. But then, she didn’t really remember what kind of a person “herself” was.

And probably the safe room had been a good idea because, before they’d finished building it, “that crazy foog thing,” as Roland called it, had happened again. He said that was in early February and now it was late March, so it had been almost two months and her memory still hadn’t returned.

It did seem like everything Roland did was for her own protection, and she knew she should be grateful. But lately she’d had the persistent feeling that something didn’t quite mesh. It wasn’t just her missing memory.

It was something bigger than that.

He’d told her they’d been together for three years, that they’d planned to get married before everything went to hell. A little over a year ago, he said, she’d had her first spell. She lost her memory, didn’t know her own name, didn’t remember him. Then her memory came back. Then it happened again, and it lasted a little longer. “Ya’d lose your memory,” he said, “and then it’d come back, then go again. Really crazy. The docs said you was mental, wanted to put ya in the nuthouse. Couldn’t let ’em do that, so I brought ya out here.”

Lisa didn’t know what to make of it. Whenever she stared at her image in the black-streaked mirror above the sink in the cabin’s grimy bathroom, she’d get a prickly feeling that a stranger was staring back.

Someone she couldn’t quite bring into focus.

And then there was the other thing.

As Roland led her to the truck, grumbling because he wouldn’t be able to stop for a beer at Joanie’s diner, his iron grip on her hand reminded her of that other thing.

Reminded her that sometimes sex with him could get a bit rough. He would zone out … almost like, in his mind, he was just getting a quick screw from a hooker, not making love to the fiancée he had saved from an asylum.

And then there was that last time, two weeks ago.

They were on the cot in the safe room. He was on top of her, pounding away, when something snapped in her head and she’d started fighting back and he’d smacked her. Hard.

It had only happened that one time.

But it had happened.

He’d smacked her and something inside her head had commanded her to fight back, to make him pay for that humiliating blow. But self-preservation told her she simply owed him too much, that she’d be completely lost without him, so she’d suppressed the urge.

He’d apologized later, saying he thought she was drifting again and he’d only hit her in the hope it would bring her back to her senses. In the hope, as he said, that it would stop her from “fooging” so he wouldn’t have to teach her who she was all over again.

He’d played that card too many times.

Lisa’s inchoate thoughts and sensations had been nudging her toward a single conclusion:

I’m his prisoner.

After that incident, she had carefully adopted the role of the submissive sweetheart, all the while manipulating Roland into letting her join him on today’s excursion. She’d already decided that—amnesia or not—if he didn’t agree to take her, she was going to make a run for it. The problem with that plan was that she had no idea where she was, and no idea of which direction to run.

At least this way she’d have a guide.

Copyright © 2017 by Douglas Schofield