Killer Within by Jeff Gunhus
Arnie Milhouse is a murderer. A millionaire with dozens of kills in his past and no one the wiser. But when his name surfaces in connection with the death of a D.C. call girl, Arnie knows it’s only a matter of time before the FBI puts the pieces together. As he makes plans to disappear and leave his life in Annapolis behind forever, he meets a beautiful, mysterious woman who takes an interest in him. The perfect final victim. He can’t believe his luck.
Only luck has nothing to do with it.
Allison McNeil has returned to Annapolis, a city that she promised herself she would never come back to, not while the cruel memories of her time at the United States Naval Academy still haunt her. But she’s willing to do just about anything to get close to Arnie, even if it means having to face down the demons of her past. Her plans work and soon she and Arnie find themselves locked in a dangerous dance of seduction and betrayal.
But Arnie isn’t the only one who carries a secret and the dark truth about Allison McNeil makes a final confrontation between them inevitable. Neither of them know it, but they’re on a collision course that only one of them will survive.
Arnie Milhouse never considered himself much of a hero. Even as his fingers flexed around the Bic pen he was about to jab into the neck of the man in front of him, he still had his doubts.
Twenty minutes earlier, when he first walked into Rocco’s Convenience and Liquor, the place seemed to stand a good chance of living up to the promise of its name. There was plenty of liquor and not another soul to mess up the convenience of it all. The empty store wasn’t especially unusual for ten-thirty on a Tuesday night. Friday would have been a different story. Workers trading their paychecks for cheap whiskey and smokes; old ladies down to get their Quik Pick lottos; high school kids pimping beers off whoever looked least likely to care about the law. But this was a Tuesday and everything was quiet at Rocco’s.
Arnie shuffled to the back of the store, curling his toes to keep his ill-fitting slippers from sliding off his feet. Vaguely, he wondered if he ought to have put on his shoes before leaving the house. He shrugged away the thought when he reached the wall of refrigerators in the back of the store. He opened the door and pulled out a milk jug. White flakes coated the plastic where past spills had dried, but the expiration date was still a respectable five days away. It would do.
He stood at the counter to pay for his milk, shooting for the minimum acceptable amount of interaction with the acne-tortured teenager brooding behind the cash register. The kid’s face made him think too much about his own awkward adolescence for him to make eye contact for too long. He caught himself running his fingers over the pockmarks left from acne so bad it made him stay home from school some days in embarrassment. He remembered the jokes from other kids, the sympathetic looks from teachers, the tut-tut of the dermatologist who never found a way to help him. He felt a surge of anger at the kid for dredging up those painful memories. Arnie preferred to forget those days. Not that things were much better now.
“What’s that?” the kid asked.
“What’s not better now?”
Arnie hadn’t realized he’d said anything. “Nothing. I wasn’t talking to you.”
The kid rolled his eyes and told Arnie how much he owed. Arnie handed over some cash and waited for his change, taking in the space around Rocco’s cash register. It looked like a million other places; the yellowy laminate surface stained and chipped away, rows of ninety-nine cent packets of herbal supplements, a display of Harley-Davidson lighters, walls of breath mints and racks of chewing gum.
Boring and expected. But then again, what in life wasn’t?
Arnie hadn’t always felt that way. Like any young man, he had once been full of expectation, ready for the road to rise before him in a never-ending adventure. Ready to make his mark. Slay dragons. But none of it was meant to be.
Things had started out in his favor. He was good-looking, filling out and growing into his own during college. He possessed a work ethic and was wicked smart. Even Mensa, the society of high IQs, had been impressed by his intellect and sent him a document to print out certifying that he, Arnie Milhouse, was a damn genius.
You’re so smart that you’re stupid, was his wife’s favorite line, a battering ram that smashed into him the second he had the poor taste to feel good about himself. Problem was, she wasn’t wrong.
He over-analyzed every decision he faced, seeing too many paths to ever choose a direction. This made him indecisive and a chronic second-guesser. It was his nature to not only see faults in others, but to constantly point them out without filter. This critical nature coupled with a lack of any social skills made normal relationships all but impossible.
So, he’d sought refuge in the certainty and the infallibility of math and computers. Over time he turned meek and timid. He didn’t stop to realize the mouse he had let himself become until it was the only thing he knew how to be. He was disgusted with the man he saw in the mirror, but it was the hand life had dealt him.
Then the door to Rocco’s Convenience and Liquor opened and life took an unexpected turn.
Praise for Night Chill:
“…unforgettable, exceptional debut. A primitive ritual and an ancient secret threaten a family’s safety in this heart-pounding tale of horrific madness, Guaranteed to trigger night sweats along with a childlike, irrational fear of the creaky attic, Jeff Gunhus’s Night Chill will not disappoint horror fans.” – Foreword Clarion Reviews – 5 STARS
Gunhus delivers a taut supernatural thriller…the powerful Nate Huckley terrifies, and the assorted cast of human antagonists add to the white-knuckle tension. All the chops of an action-packed horror tale.” – Kirkus Reviews
“A masterful storyteller with an eye for eccentric detail…Gunhus exhibits a distinctive style typically found in seasoned authors like Dean Koontz and Stephen King.” - Clarion Foreword Reviews 5 STARS
Author Jeff Gunhus
Jeff Gunhus is the author of the Amazon bestselling supernatural thriller, Night Chill, and the Middle Grade/YA series, The Templar Chronicles. The first book of the series, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, was written in an effort to get his reluctant reader eleven-year old son excited about reading. It worked and a new series was born. His book Reaching Your Reluctant Reader has helped hundreds of parents create avid readers. Killer Within is his second novel for adults. As a father of five, he and his wife Nicole spend most of their time chasing kids and taking advantage of living in the great state of Maryland. In rare moments of quiet, he can be found in the back of the City Dock Cafe in Annapolis working on his next novel. If you see him there, sit down and have a cup of coffee with him. You just might end up in his next novel.
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