In Knowing, Jane embarks on one of the darkest and emotionally charged journeys of her life. Nothing is what it seems and everything is built on bricks of chaos. As the novel begins, Jane’s cherished Mustang is stolen at a gas station and she has to travel on a bus to reach her next destination. However, it’s a ride she’ll never forget and one that will set up the complex story that follows.
The girl stared into Jane’s eyes. “I can trust you.”
“Look, if you’re in trouble, maybe you should—“
“Shit!” the girl whispered, craning her neck and looking outside the window on the opposite side of the bus.
“What?” Jane asked with growing irritation.
The girl slunk down and peered outside the window next to her seat. “Shit, shit, shit!”
“What is it?”
“Shh! I swear I saw the red-haired dude out there wearing a black suit.”
As much as Jane did not want to engage the girl or feed her paranoid delusions, she stood partly up in her seat and looked around the exterior of the bus. “I don’t see any red haired guy wearing a black suit.” She sat back down. “Are you playing me? Because I’m telling you, I’ve had a fucked up morning—”
“My name’s Lilith. And I doubt you’ll believe a word of what I know. That’s what they always count on. Make it so absurd so if you tell your story, you’ll sound insane.”
Jane regarded Lilith. “Are you high?”
Lilith turned away, her eyes silently canvassing the outside of the bus from her window. “Fuck off,” she murmured.
Jane stared straight ahead. The television above her head flashed on the weather map of Colorado, showing a spring cold front entering the state. The bus driver boarded and faced the passengers. Jane noted that even though he’d been outside the entire time, he had the same sickly, grey pallor just like every other passenger on this black coach.
“Hey, folks!” the driver announced, “it’s gonna be a couple more minutes. We gotta problem with one of the luggage compartments.” He turned and left.
Lilith became increasingly agitated. “Fuck!” she said under her breath, nervously looking outside.
Jane couldn’t take it anymore. She eyed the girl, speaking quietly. “Okay, if I tell you I’m a cop, will that change things?”
Her eyes widened. “For real?”
“But I thought you had your car stolen. How’s that possible?”
Jane rolled her eyes. Lilith was the second person that day to question how a cop could be so stupid. “The two are not mutually exclusive. Look, in my job, I’ve heard some really off-the-wall stories. So, if you want to share whatever’s freaking you out, I’ll listen with an open mind.”
Lilith turned her body toward Jane. It was as if she had found her savior. “I was headed to Denver this morning on another bus,” she whispered. “I was goin’ there to make a statement to a cop or whoever would listen to me.” She swallowed hard, furtively peering around the bus suspiciously. “I was involved in a murder.” Jane focused intently on her. “I didn’t commit the murder,” Lilith quickly added, “but I was used to make it happen.”
“One of my friends. Her name was Jaycee. She was a…” Lilith seemed suddenly embarrassed, “hooker.”
“Okay,” Jane said, nonchalantly.
Lilith chewed the flesh off her thumb. “I’m also a…hooker.”
“Hey, I’m not your priest. I don’t care what you do for a living.”
Lilith slightly relaxed. “Jaycee was new in town. Like less than a week. I never even knew her last name or where she came from. But she seemed real nice so we hung out.”
“How did Jaycee die?”
“I…um…had this guy ask me for a date. He was short. Like five six. And old. Like forty.”
“Forty? Yeah, that’s fuckin’ ancient.”
“Yeah. He had reddish grey hair. He drove up in a limo and I got in. There were two other guys in the back. Both were tall and thin and wore dark suits, thin black ties and had really red hair. I mean, like, fire red from hell, you know? And they had these piercing blue eyes, like glass almost. The guy on the left side had a weird bright crimson mark that covered most of the top of his right hand. It was like three inches long. It looked like he’d been in some kind of accident.”
“Did you get any names?”
“Not from the two guys sitting across from me. But the guy who seemed to be in charge said his name was Mr. Ramos. I’ve entertained four guys named Ramos and they all had dark hair, so that was kinda different. I told him it was extra for a threesome but he told me he didn’t want to do me. He wanted me to hook him up with Jaycee. He said he’d seen me with her. I told him to talk to Jaycee himself but he said he was nervous.”
“Nervous?” Jane questioned.
“Yeah. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me neither. I mean, trust me, this Ramos dude didn’t look like a guy who was scared of anything. But then I figured, maybe he didn’t want anyone seein’ him with a black girl—“
“Jaycee was black?”
“As black as the darkest night. Seriously, I never seen no one that black. So, he tells me that he’d pay me good money if I bring her to a certain motel outside of the city but to keep it on the down-low with her ‘cause he wanted to surprise her. He told me when he wanted to see her, the motel name and the room number. Told me there’d be a key waitin’ for me at the desk and to bring her upstairs. Then, I was to go back outside and one of the guys with red hair who was in the limo would give me my money.”
“None of this seemed a little freaky to you?”
“Oh, shit. Last week, I had a guy tell me to put on his mother’s dress and then he nursed on my tit while he made me sing ‘Three Blind Mice.’ It’s all freaky!”
Par for the course, Jane figured. “Go on,” Jane insisted.
“I needed the cash. So, I agreed. If I’d have known…” Lilith shook her head as her eyes welled up.
Jane put her hand on the girl’s arm. “What happened?”
“I did like he asked me to. I told Jaycee that there was this rich guy who wanted a date with only her. She was a little nervous but she liked the idea that someone thought she was special. So we drove down to the motel. And like Mr. Ramos said, the key was waitin’ at the front desk. Room 170—“
“170?” Jane repeated, noting that damn seventeen again.
“Yeah. I take her up there and we go into the room. There was a vase on a table filled with dozens of narcissus. They were beautiful. It made the room smell real sweet. But when we looked on the bed, there was a guy passed out but it wasn’t Mr. Ramos.”
“How do you know he was passed out?”
“’Cause we tried to wake him up but he was wasted. His eyes would open but nobody was home, you know?” Tears fell from Lilith’s eyes. “I should have never left her there. But she said she was okay. So, I walked out. I went downstairs and just like Mr. Ramos said, there was one of the red haired guys from the limo…the one with the weird cherry mark on his hand? He handed me a fat envelope and told me to leave. I got in my car and drove home. That’s when I counted the money. I couldn’t believe it. Seventeen hundred bucks. I was rich.”
Jane had to check herself momentarily to make sure she wasn’t dreaming.
Lilith reached out to Jane. “But then…the next day, I watch the news and I hear about this dead working girl who they found cut up in a Limon motel…with her head split open…”
Jane was staggered. “Hang on. You’re talking about Harlan Kipple?”
“Yeah. When they showed his photo on the TV, I realized he was the guy passed out on the bed.” She leaned closer to Jane. “He didn’t kill nobody! Guaranteed. He couldn’t lift his eyelid, let alone a knife! He didn’t even have a knife on him!”
“How do you know?”
“We wanted to check him out. See what his package looked like. We pulled back the covers. He was butt naked and there was no knife anywhere. Hand to God! Somebody set him up, just like I set up Jaycee!”
“How the fuck should I know? Bad shit happens to good people. But it’s been eatin’ at me ever since he got arrested and charged with murder. I couldn’t sleep.” She lowered her head. “I’ve never done nothin’ in my life that’s moral or good. And I figured maybe I could help him, you know? I didn’t tell nobody what I was plannin’ on doin’. I was goin’ to Denver this morning and I was gonna tell whoever would listen to my story what I did and what I saw. And if they couldn’t find who killed Jaycee, at least they could let Kipple go free.”
Jane waited. “Okay…so why are you now headed the opposite direction from Denver?”
“Didn’t you hear what happened this mornin’?”
“No. I’ve been occupied.”
“It was all over the news. I saw it on the other bus when we were drivin’ to Denver. Harlan Kipple’s lawyer took him to a hospital to get his heart checked out. And he escaped!”
Jane quickly recalled the muted TV in the Quik Mart and Kipple’s face on the screen. “Wait a second. If someone is truly innocent, they don’t escape. They talk to their lawyer. They build their case—“
“Hey, I ain’t too smart, but this much I know: I don’t think he’s runnin’ from the cops,” Lilith said succinctly.
“Who’s he running from? Ramos?”
“Maybe. Harlan knows he didn’t kill Jaycee. He knows he was set up. Maybe he was threatened. Maybe he was supposed to die in that motel room? I’m sure as drugged up as he was, he doesn’t remember anything that happened in that room, but somewhere down deep,” she looked off to the side, lost in thought, “somehow he knows…in here?” She pointed to her heart. “Just like I know in that same place. It’s a knowing. I should have had a knowing when I took Jaycee up to that room. She’d be alive today.”
A million thoughts raced through Jane’s head. “This Ramos guy only wanted Jaycee. You said she was new in town so why did he choose her specifically?”
Lilith shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know.”
“Why would Ramos want to kill her? And why set up Harlan Kipple for the hit?”
“Hey! Which one of us is the cop here? I don’t have a fuckin’ clue.” She moved closer to Jane. “But I do know one thing. I haven’t felt like I’ve been totally alone since I met Ramos in the back of that limo.”
“The red haired guy in the black suit?” Lilith nodded apprehensively. “You think he’s following you?”
“I know he is. About a week ago, outside of my place, there was a black sedan and the driver’s window was cracked just enough that I could see red hair.” Lilith grabbed hard onto Jane’s jacket sleeve. “Whoever ‘they’ are, they gotta get rid of us who know about the murder. They took care of Harlan and got him in prison for it. But now that he’s jumped, they’re gonna go after him. I’m the only loose string left in this mess.” She let go of Jane’s arm. “I really did want to go to Denver and talk to a cop and make it right for Harlan. And even though I chickened out, you’re a pretty good second choice right now.” Lilith turned to the window as if she sensed someone standing outside.
“What is it?”
“It’s weird. Even when I can’t see him, he’s in my head.”
“In your head?”
She clutched the sleeve of Jane’s leather jacket again. “Please don’t think I’m crazy when I say that! It’s the only way I can describe it. It’s like…he’s following me in my head.” Lilith tapped the center of her forehead. Her eyes pleaded with Jane. “I’m scared to death. Can you please help me?”
Jane felt for the kid. She believed everything she said. More questions beat around in Jane’s brain but her thought process was quickly hijacked by that overwhelming stench she smelled when she first got on the bus. Within seconds, Jane felt her gut seizing and ready to eject every last pine nut she’d ingested. She held her belly, trying to abate the nausea.
“You okay?” Lilith asked, concerned.
“You seriously can’t smell that?” Jane asked, as her tongue began to tingle.
“No. I can’t. What’s goin’ on?”
Suddenly, Jane recognized the same muscular thickness press against her that she’d felt back at the Quik Mart. There was urgency in the air; a million pinpoint spikes of electrical energy erupting at once. Jane could swear she felt her ass being pushed out of her seat. A wave of nausea hit hard. She rested a reassuring hand on Lilith’s arm. “I’ll be right back. I’m gonna be sick,” she hurriedly said, grabbing her bag from the Quik Mart and booking it off the bus.
Jane tore into the nearby field with the dried stands of grass and large rocks. Ducking behind a sizeable boulder, she emptied every last ounce of her stomach contents onto the barren ground. As much as she used to get drunk and bear the consequences the next day, Jane never recalled being this sick, this fast. She tried to stand up but her knees gave out instantly. A strange ringing assaulted her ears, soft at first, then loud and unforgiving. For several moments, the world seemed to stop. She felt suspended in an unearthly cloak that protected her. When Jane emerged from that place, her head spun. She tried to stand up again, but she was forced back on her knees. The ground pulsed beneath her.
Still half outside of herself, she turned her head toward the frontage road and watched as the door on the black Anubus coach closed and the bus moved forward. Jane tried to yell and raise her arm but that damned heavy presence subdued her, preventing any sound from exiting her mouth. She watched helplessly as the bus rolled another hundred feet. Suddenly, a crimson flare detonated from the center of the undercarriage. Another ignition quickly burst in the rear followed by the final one in the front. In a millisecond, a cataclysmic, shock-and-awe explosion broke into the morning air as the bus blasted toward the sky. Shrapnel and blazing body parts rained down on the pavement, igniting small fires in the dried brush that skirted the road.
Jane covered her head and tucked her body as tightly as she could against the boulder. The hellish scene came to an uneasy rest within a minute. By then, a cluster of people ran out of the nearby depot and convenience store. The odd ringing in Jane’s ears vanished, replaced by the hysterical screams and warnings to “stay back” from the terrified spectators.
Jane smelled the same sickly stench that sent her off the bus and into the field. But this time, she connected to where she’d smelled it before. It was the stink of decomposing bodies that she’d unfortunately grown used to at homicide scenes. Her senses had been so dulled by the sickening odor that when the aroma was outside of its deathly orbit, she couldn’t pin it down. But crouching in that field with the burning chunks of debris smoldering against the human sacrifices, Jane realized that for some unknown reason, she sensed the tragedy before it happened. She even saw it in their faces—that ghostly, grey pallor that dwelled over the passengers minutes before their untimely death.
But there was something else. And that something still hovered to the side.
Laurel Dewey is The Story Plant’s Author of the Month. This means we are offering sensational deals on all of her books, including national bestseller Protector. We are also offering a personal look at Laurel’s life and writing habits through social media. Please join us today at 4:00pm MST for a Twitter chat (@thestoryplant) with Laurel. You can learn more about the Author of the Month program here.